150-year-old memories kept alive at reunion
The Honorable Augustus Adams, as president, founded A. Adams & Sons in 1856 with his two older sons as secretary and treasurer. Adams held patents he hoped to develop into practical corn shellers. He succeeded in producing a well-built line of spring and cylinder shellers. The first portable power corn sheller was produced at his plant, and the self-feeding device invented by Adams in about 1860 was a great improvement in shellers.
In 1867, Adams & Sons, with an infusion of local capital, became Sandwich Mfg. Co. with Augustus as president and his son, J. Phelps, as secretary-treasurer. In 1870, Augustus left Sandwich to start Marseilles Mfg. Co. in Marseilles, Ill., with his younger sons. With the extra capital available, Sandwich soon expanded their product line into a large and varied line of practical farm equipment.
With a line of quality products, a strong dealer network and requests for gasoline engines to power their machines coming in, in about 1906, Sandwich began handling, as jobbers, several different makes of high grade engines. Primary of these was the Jacob Haish Co., of DeKalb, Ill., who built the Chanticleer line of engines. In 1912, an engineer from the Haish plant came to Sandwich with patents for an improved design of engines, and the first Sandwich "Excess Power" engines were produced in 1913. These were dependable, high quality engines, highly finished in rich Brewster green, with gold and light green striping and lettered in gold. Sizes ranged from 1-1/2 HP to 10 HP and all had a horsepower output of 25 to 40 percent above their rating.
In 1930, with most of the original principles gone and the Depression taking its toll, Sandwich Mfg. was sold to the New Idea Co. of Coldwater, Ohio. With the addition of Sandwich's shellers, elevators, side-delivery hay rakes and hay loaders to the manure spreaders, transplanters, husker shredders, corn pickers and wagons in the New Idea line, the company had a better market position. Shortly after the changeover, the New Idea Vari-Speed No. 2 engine was developed. This was a throttling-governor, enclosed, self-oiling, ball bearing engine that developed 1-1/2 HP at 550 RPM or 2-1/2 HP at 750 RPM, it was painted New Idea green with a New Idea orange 6-point star on the flywheels. Lettering and striping were also orange. These were produced until about 1935 or 1936, and about 2,500 to 3,000 were produced.
With the drastic changes in farming during the 1940s, New Idea decided to clean out. Spare parts for everything Sandwich made were either melted down and recast, or sold as scrap. The local scrap dealer handled over 100 tons of metals. All production and shipping records were hauled out and burned. A former employee (now deceased) told us he spent several months emptying out file cabinet after cabinet of records back to the early days of the company. What would be pure gold to us now went up in smoke.
In June 1955, all production at the Sandwich plant was moved to Coldwater, and the plant was used as a regional distribution and parts warehouse and dealer training center. In 1980, a new distribution and training center was opened in the Quad City area and operations were consolidated there. The Sandwich plant was put on the market, and the 153,000-square-foot facility at 95 N Main St. was bought by Henderson Engineering Co. of Addison, Ill., makers of industrial air filters, in early 1981, ending 125 years of use for farm equipment.
Contact Ray Forrer at: Ray Forrer, 105 E. North St., Box 43, Somonauk, IL 60552; (815) 498-2013; firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information: www.oldengine.org/members/sandwich