Remember the Alamo

Alamo Manufacturing Company, that is

| December 2005

  • Empiregasengine.jpg
    'Note the similarities between these three engines: From left sits an Alamo, a Rock Island and an Empire gas engine, all built by the Alamo Mfg. Co., Hillsdale, Mich. According to CH. Wendel’s American Gasoline Engines Since 1872, “(Alamo) Blue Line engines of 2 HP were of somewhat different design than the little 1 HP size. The cylinder and water hopper were cast in a single piece with the cylinder bolting to the frame.” Looking closely, you can see the Alamo and Empire engines share the same base, but the Rock Island features the one-piece casting Wendel wrote about. '
  • Alamosmainbuilding.jpg
    'A photo of Alamo’s main building as it sits today, on the corner of St. Joseph and East South streets. On the arch above the main entrance, the name “Alamo” is still scribed into the concrete. Special thanks to David Holcomb at the County of Hillsdale for supplying us with this photo. '

  • Empiregasengine.jpg
  • Alamosmainbuilding.jpg

At the turn of the 20th century a new gas engine company emerged in Hillsdale, Mich.: the Alamo Mfg. Co. Alamo began selling their engines around 1900-1901, but made very few with their own name on them.

Alamo was more interested in manufacturing engines than marketing them, so they had agents (other gas engine companies) licensed to put the Alamo name on their engines. This marketing strategy resulted in making Alamo-built engines very popular. Some of these "other" gas engine companies included such names as Empire, Rock Island, Monarch, Lansing and dozens more. In 1917, Alamo Mfg. Co. adopted the name Alamo Engine Co., and continued to use that name for the duration of their business days.

The plant included several buildings used for painting, testing, storage and of course, an office. The Alamo facilities, situated at the corner of St. Joseph and East South streets, are still standing today, and still has the company name etched into the concrete above the main building's entrance. Since Alamo Engine Co. vacated, a handful of other companies have occupied the premises - most recently, American Copper & Brass. Many additions to the building have been made over the years, making the main building considerably larger than it was 90 years ago.

Alamo produced a total of 116,000 engines in sizes ranging from 1-1/2 to 120 HP, according to a Hillsdale County historical web page. Some Hillsdale locals old enough to remember claim that in their heyday, Alamo employed about 1,500 people.

In the very early 1930s Alamo ceased production and closed their doors forever. Given this time frame, it's safe to assume their demise was due to a struggling economy and newfound technology, namely the electric motor.

The history of the County of Hillsdale, Mich., can be accessed via Internet at:


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