The story of Paulson engine no. 1 – a 5 HP hit-and-miss engine manufactured by Lang and Scharmann
In June of 2012, I eagerly took my Paulson engine to its first show – The Tri-County Threshermen’s Assn. show in Plainfield, Wis. I knew I had a very rare and special engine and hoped that its extensive history would captivate other engine enthusiasts. So that Saturday morning I set up my large display board next to my engine and anxiously awaited feedback. Everyone who took the time to read about the engine gave very positive comments; however, one comment stood out above all others. A man named Joe said, “If there was such a thing as a gas engine lottery, you hit the jackpot! You own the first engine made by Paulson: serial no. 1.”
I talked to Joe for a bit, explaining how I acquired the engine and the accompanying historical information and photographs.
Joe said he’d never heard of Paulson engines and asked how I found the engine.
I explained that the previous fall I had spotted the Paulson engine in the local buyer’s guide in an auction listing. It read “SPECIAL Paulson hit-and-miss 5 HP engine made by Lang and Scharmann in Marshfield, Wis. Engine no. 1 (one of a kind).” That made me very curious because Marshfield is only 40 miles north of my hometown. An engine made in the local area was news to me. On the bottom of the ad was their website. The picture showed a very weathered engine inside of a building, sinking into the earth.
Joe asked about the auction, specifically if there were a lot of people bidding against me.
While there had been a lot of people there not many were engine collectors! But there was still a bidding war between me and another man. After I won the engine, we spoke; it turned out that he was a Lang. I asked him if he was a descendant of the foundry that made the engine. He said that he was not; he just liked seeing his last name on that brass tag. That Lang name cost me an extra $900.
Joe smiled, and then asked about the bracket-mounted box on the side of the water hopper that holds two homemade antique batteries and one Model T buzz coil.
I told Joe that the box was a bit of a mystery. The engine igniter had been replaced with a spark plug, and the box was missing when I bought it. At first, I thought they may have used a magneto. I wondered if there may have been any photos of the engine at the auction, so I called the auctioneer. He gave me the number of the antique dealer who had bought the photos. When I called the antique dealer, he said that he did have images of an engine that came from that farm. The mystery was solved in a 1951 photo with the engine in the background. You can just make out the box. When I was at the auction there were a lot of Ford Model T car parts, and farmers use what they have on hand. Sure enough, the Model T buzz coil box holes lined up to the bracket.
“So you didn’t know about the engine photos at the auction?” Joe asked.
No, I told him, I didn’t know there were any engine photos. There were about 200 glass plate negatives and hundreds of photos from the farm, but I didn’t have time to look through them all, and they were sold before I bought the engine. When I met the antique dealer who bought the photos, he handed me a brown envelope labeled “Barn Interior 1/8/1912.” I held the glass negative to the light, and there was my engine powering a cutter with a man feeding it silage. That 100-year-old negative showed my engine’s early life. That was just awesome, and I was as happy as a little kid on Christmas morning. Then he said, “I think you would like these two pictures also.” There was my Paulson on a makeshift buzz saw rig on skis, making firewood at the farmer’s neighbor’s place. The second photo was of two boys on skis and the Paulson behind them, partially in the snow bank, dated 1951. I left that antique store on cloud nine.
“Amazing … to be that lucky,” Joe said.
But there is more. The library in Marshfield has the old newspapers on film. That’s how I knew it was made in 1909 with its first ad and other articles … like “the Paulson is a favorite.” Then I found out that the name of the engine changed to the Perfection in 1912, when Peter Paulson moved and opened a garage in another city. Then I met a great-nephew of the farmer who owned the engine. He is in his late 70s and knew the many names to put on the pictures. Then he gave me the original photo of the barn’s interior and he told me, “Just let me know when I can come and see that engine run at one of the shows.” So I called him this last May and told him that the Paulson was running. He chuckled and said, “You know that girl you have sitting on your engine, on your business card? I think she can get any motor running.”
Thank you for reading my story. As far as I know, my Paulson engine is the only one known to still exist. If you know of another, or have information, please contact me. There could be a second story.
Since this show I have continued my research and found a Peter Paulson descendant. His name is Tod and he lives 10 minutes from me. He did not know that his great-uncle made farm engines. Get this – Tod collects engines and shows them and, yes, he was at the Plainfield show with his engines. What are the odds? I told him that if another engine would turn up, he could be a Paulson engine owner too.