One-of-a-kind 1912 vertical gas engine

High school shop project is one-of-a-kind


| October/November 1988



1912 vertical gas engine

In April of '86, I was running a show for the Front Range Antique Power Association at Four Mile Historic Park in Denver. I had just finished restoring a 1907 7 HP Ottawa engine. It was lazing along, hitting about six shots a minute, in its new red paint. Midmorning I noticed an older gentleman trying to catch up to me as I was walking along. He said that his name was Parce, Earl Parce, and that he had gone to Manual School and taught in the Denver Public Schools until he retired. He had admired the restoration of the Ottawa (Ottawa, Kansas was my home town, and I had designed different products at the engine plant). We talked about the Ottawa and how nice it ran. It had been a basket case from a mud hole in Arkansas.

Earl said he had a couple of engines which he would give me if I would restore them. They were stashed under his mountain cabin about 75 miles from Denver and had been there since the twenties. He told me one of the engines was a class project of 1912 at the old Manual Training High School when his father, Joseph Parce, taught there. He continued that it was a vertical engine with heavy 12-inch flywheels. The other engine was a Fuller Johnson 2 HP.

Joseph had been sent to Denver, Colorado to bring and install a Reynolds Corliss 60 HP steam engine. It was to be located in the basement of the new Manual Training High School and to be belted to machinery in the Pattern and Machine Shops on the first floor. The Foundry was on the first floor and the Drafting Room was on the second floor.

At that time Joseph was working for the American Tool and Machinery Company of Boston. This company was engaged in the design, construction and installation of various kinds of mill and factory equipment, including power plant and transmission machinery. He had graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1893 with a S.B. degree in Mechanical Engineering.

When the installation of the Corliss and other machinery was completed, Joseph was convinced to stay on and teach at the school. That summer he took a teaching course at Columbia University.

Manual Training High School opened in 1896 with 24 students. At that time, Denver was a booming town. The silver crash of '93 was over; gold was king. Companies like General Iron Works, Denver-Gardiner and Stearns-Roger Manufacturing Company needed trained designers and machinists for work in the growing West.