Box 156, Cumberland, Iowa 50843
What is a shelf pet? A shelf pet is a small gas engine or
related item that can be stored on a shelf. Many shelf pets are
necessary due to shortage of storage or poor health reasons. They
also are desired by collectors who just like something small they
can handle themselves. How many times do we hear ‘the doctor
says I can’t lift anything very heavy.’ A shelf pet is the
answer. It allows many people who could not continue their passion
for gas engines to go on with their hobby. Quite a few collectors
live in town or are limited for space. A shelf in the garage in
front of the car or in the basement will hold a shelf pet nicely.
Shelf pets are easy to get around and can be taken to shows quite
One collector of old cars has a Handy Andy in the trunk of one
of his old cars. It is not for sale because it was in the car when
he bought it, and he wants to leave the car original.
In addition to gas engines, other related items can qualify as
shelf pets. Advertising signs, gas cans, wrenches, and wood company
service cabinets make very attractive shelf pets as well as
decorator items. Some of these items make great accessories for
decorating inside the home. Books, literature and salesman samples
are valuable and highly treasured shelf pets. In my travels I have
seen salesman samples of Olds, Stickney and Domestic gas engines,
and they are truly works of art to be displayed in an appropriate
Models make excellent shelf pets and they can be carried about
in small cases. Whether you build them yourself or buy them, models
are becoming increasingly popular at shows. Quite a number of
models will fit into a small economy car. With the high cost of
fuel to get to shows we will probably see an increase in models and
other small displays at the shows.
With their increasing popularity, shelf pets have been going up
in price. Some have gone about out of sight, but others can be
bought for reasonable prices. Some of the easier shelf pets to find
include Maytags, Nelson Bros, small air cooled, the Duro and
Associated Mfgs. small air cooled ‘Colt’ engine.
Several engines seem to qualify as elite among shelf pets. They
are not exceptionally hard to find, but are awfully hard to buy.
Their owners never seem to want to get rid of them and when they do
it’s always for quite a few coins. These engines include the ?
HP New Holland, Galloway’s ‘Handy Andy’, and
International’s Mogul Jr. in the flat top and perculator
Some medium priced pets would include small Ideal and Bluffton
engines. International’s Tom Thumb, 1 HP Titan and Titan Jr.
engines fill out this group.
There are several small engines that qualify as shelf pets that
are not seen very often. About 1911 the John Lauson Mfg. Co. of New
Holstein, Wisconsin had on the market a 1 HP hit and miss engine
they called the ‘Willing Helper.’ This ‘Baby Frost
King’ is a heavily built and excellent running engine.
Another small gem is the Franklin engine. It came to the buyer
in kit form and was assembled for small power uses such as jewlery
stores. The flywheels on the Franklin were placed inside the engine
block and the engine resembled a small steam engine.
The Sieverkropp Engine Company of Racine, Wisconsin put out a
small horizontal hopper cooled engine in 1913. It possibly has the
smallest water hopper on it of all the gas engines and originally
cost $19.50 to purchase.
There are several other small engines that I have not been able
to find out much about. They do not have much in the way of
identification on them. There are pictures with this article in the
hopes that someone can help with identification and history.
Happy pet hunting to everyone. To those with pets at home, be
sure to keep them well cared for and locked up at night. Of all the
gas engines, shelf pets have the most tendency to wander off from