| January/February 1978

  • Cunningham Lawnmower
    Cunningham Lawnmower, made in the years of 1946 to 1955. I have three of these but just this one is restored.
  • Cunningham sickle bar
    Cunningham sickle bar. Sorry I didn't have the engine on when I look this picture.

  • Cunningham Lawnmower
  • Cunningham sickle bar

559 Sheldon Road, Palmyra, New York 14522

I think this article will be of interest to many small engine collectors. I have never seen Cunningham mentioned in GEM.

This is the story of a firm, James Cunningham, Son and Company, that once made carriages and now makes crossbar switches. Founded in the days of handicraft, the firm survives-and prospers-in an era so new that most of us have not yet caught up with it: the era of automation. Moreover, Cunningham has always been owned and managed by the members of one family. Its fourth president is the great-grandson of the first. But something more than a name has survived: the firm has spanned the Industrial Revolution without losing its essential character for quality production.

However, the history of a company, even as old a company as Cunningham, should not be presented without some explanation, for 'company history' can mean anything from advertising to a statistical abstract of operations; as a form of reading matter it is suspect.

At some of the shows that I attended last year, I recall seeing two Cunningham engines. This sparked my interest in these little engines and the reason for this story. I now have seven of these engines, three on lawnmowers, one on a sickle bar and three extra engines.

The Cunningham Company was founded in 1838 in Rochester, N.Y. by James Cunningham who came to Rochester from Cobourg, Canada, a small town near Toronto. He had a great interest in woodworking and designing. The young company started producing sleighs and buggies. In order to sell his products, Cunningham would often hitch up a team of horses to a buggie and hook up several more buggies in a string and head upstate New York toward Buffalo and Niagara Falls demonstrating his product. More often than not, he would return home on horseback: the indication of a successful selling trip. The company built not only carriages, but also ambulances and hearses.