The Hagan Gas Engine

By Staff
1 / 12
Nameplate from a Campbell/Hagan.
2 / 12
Unsuccessful Hagan tractor.
3 / 12
The Hagan factory in Winchester, Ky., sometime around 1910. The building was razed in 1985.
4 / 12
100 HP four-cylinder Hagan actually two, two-cylinder engines coupled together.
5 / 12
The Hagan factory floor as depicted in a Hagan catalog.
6 / 12
Earliest known Hagan brochure showing an entirely different carburetor than the chain-drive affair Hagan was known for. It's unclear how many engines were equipped with this design.
7 / 12
8 / 12
Individual Hagan carburetor components as shown in a Hagan catalog.
9 / 12
Complete Hagan engine showing belt drive to carburetor. Also visible at bottom behind flywheel is gear drive for camshaft.
10 / 12
Hagan valve train showing 'rockshaft' for valve actuation. Hagan employed a mechanically operated intake valve instead of the more common atmospheric intake valve used by most manufacturers of small, stationary engines.
11 / 12
Hagan valve train and cylinder layout with double lobe camshaft for rockshaft visible. Note, too, that Hagan engines are headless and in fact have no gasketed surfaces, all joints being ground to fit.
12 / 12
Two-cylinder Hagan was two single-cylinder engines on a common base.

A definitive history for the Hagan Gas Engine and Manufacturing
Co. is very difficult to construct. Unlike larger engine builders
such as International Harvester Corporation, Otto and
Fairbanks-Morse, whose companies and records survived many years
beyond their engine construction efforts, Hagan was a small, mostly
regional player in the engine construction and sales field.

The Hagan Carburetor

Louis T. and Charles Hagan began their machine shop business in
Winchester, Ky. sometime in the late 1800s. While it is not
believed they were engaged in the actual construction of engines at
their outset, they were already in the engine-rebuilding field by
1891 as evidenced by a surviving shop work list dated Nov. 6,

The brothers apparently had a ‘better idea’ as to how
engines, and in particular engine carburetion, should be
constructed. Their engine construction efforts began sometime in
the late 1890s, with evidence that 1898 was their first year of
actual engine manufacture. The initial Hagan engines, while similar
to Hagan engines seen from time to time at engine shows, contained
a carburetor that is unlike the chain drive fuel pump model for
which Hagan is best known. The carburetor depicted in their
earliest known promotional brochure (see catalog cut on facing
page) shows a strange, cylindrical carburetor and a plunger-type
fuel pump. Only one carburetor and pump of this style is known to
exist. It is owned by Tommy Turner, Magnolia, Ky., and was acquired
with the remnants of the Hagan Gas Engine and Manufacturing Co.,
which were purchased by Turner in 1982.

The chain drive fuel pump/carburetor was patented on June 23,
1903. The carburetor is unique in that it contains a well in which
gasoline is allowed to accumulate. A belt driving the carburetor
pulls a brass chain; the chain dips into the fuel and pulls fuel
along its links, thereby acting as a fuel pump by bringing fuel to
the top of the carburetor; and the fuel is then dumped over the end
of a slide valve that is used for speed and fuel regulation.

Valve Layout

Hagan, unique in its design, used a ‘rockshaft’ for
valve actuation. A double-lobe cam located at the rear of the
engine (and driven off the crankshaft) drives rollers located on
the end of a shaft, which in turn runs forward to the valves. The
valve end of the shaft has actuating arms operating directly on the
valve stems. The valves are located at the 5 o’clock and 7
o’clock position (looking directly at the end of the cylinder).
As the cam lobes contact one roller of the rockshaft and then the
other, the shaft simply ‘rocks’ back and forth between the
valves, controlling both intake and exhaust. At a time when most
stationary gas engines utilized atmospheric intake valves, a
mechanically operated intake was quite progressive in design.

Hagan was awarded first prize as the most efficient and
outstanding engine at the Atlanta Exposition at the turn of the
century. Outside of its regional sales in Kentucky Hagan’s main
distribution was in Florida. The J.P. Campbell Co. of Jacksonville,
Fla., sold many Hagan engines in that area. In fact, Campbell
actually tagged Hagan engines with its own company tag stating
‘J.P. Campbell, Jacksonville, Fla.’ One such engine is
known to exist, a 2 HP owned by Turner.

Hagan used an alphabetical system to differentiate between
sizes. The Size A was rated at 2 HP, B at 3.5 HP, C at 6 HP, D at 9
HP (later at 10), E at 14 HP and F at 25 HP. Hagan also built two-,
three- and four-cylinder engines, which were multiple cylinders
identical to a single-cylinder but mounted on a common base. Three
two-cylinder Hagans are known to exist. A DD (20 HP), an EE (30 HP)
and an FF (50 HP). No three- or four-cylinder Hagans are known to

Inner workings of the Hagan carburetor as shown in a drawing
from a Hagan catalog. The chain bringing fuel up to the carburetor
is clearly shown, as is the adjustable governor for the carburetor.
Engine speed is set with the speed screw on the upper left of the
unit, which in turn acts on the carburetor governor, essentially
making it a speed set, volume-governed engine.


Hagan was one of the first engine manufacturers to enable
dual-fuel carburetion. By use on an ingenious valve that could be
added to the carburetor, Hagan engines could be switched from
gasoline to natural gas without ever missing a power stroke of the
engine. Hagan also cut keyways at 45-degree angles (found on all
but the earliest examples of Hagan engines) rather than the more
common square cut. The angled keyways proved to be a very good
engineering practice. Hagan connecting rods were tapered down from
the center of the rod to each end. The weakest portion of the rod,
if everything else is equal, is that furthest from the bearing
surfaces. By making the center of the rod larger than the ends,
Hagan connecting rods proved to be very strong and durable.

Hagan engines were headless and all joints were ground to fit.
Therefore, no packing or gaskets were used on their engines. All
bearings were fitted with automatic grease cups, which meant Hagan
engines could be started and run for extensive periods of time
without a necessary lubrication shutdown.

Success Proves Elusive

While Hagan had ideas of merit, their salesmanship apparently
was lacking. Hagan never produced more than a few thousand engines,
and according to a few of the original workers (now deceased) peak
production was some time around 1910 to the early teens. Just as
Henry Ford’s Model T was enjoying success, basically unchanged
for many years, Hagan engines produced from the early part of the
century until production ceased in the late teens remained
essentially the same. Nearly all were tank-cooled, with three
examples of hopper-cooled engines remaining. Sadly, the success of
Henry’s T was never realized by Hagan.

Several theories exist about the demise of the Hagan Gas Engine
and Manufacturing Co. One, and probably the most likely, is that
Hagan simply did not change with the times. While its engines were
high quality, they still could not compete with the simplicity and
low cost of the Hercules-built products or other, similar mass
producers. Hagan and many other small manufacturers simply could
not overcome the established sales networks of IHC, Fairbanks-Morse
and others.

Hagan s veiled attempt to keep pace with competitors also
possibly caused the company financial troubles. Hagan introduced a
single-cylinder tractor mounted on a Morton-type truck. Very few
were produced, and only one is known to exist. Hagan’s design
using a chain for fuel pickup made it very important to have the
engine level and stationary. If it wasn’t, the chain would end
up dragging on the side of the carburetor well, resulting in fuel
pulling off the chain before the chain reached the slide valve at
the top. The tractor, with its swaying, rocking motion, especially
over rough Kentucky ground, proved to be a terrible runner, with
fuel delivery being very inefficient in such an environment. Hagan
also engineered a multi-cylinder tractor, which used one large
drive wheel. An experimental model was apparently built, but on the
first test run it became stuck in the soil due to the great amount
of weight concentrated in one spot. Nothing more is heard from
their tractor construction effort.

Financial problems of another type possibly helped bring the
Hagan brothers’ shop to a close. The Hagans were of German
descent and apparently had numerous family members in their native
homeland. It is rumored that the Hagan company was commissioned to
build war materials during WW I and that the company balked rather
than be involved in a conflict with their homeland. Mo factual
evidence is available to support this claim. However, it is very
conceivable that some of the financiers of the Hagan enterprises
were family or acquaintances from Germany, and further that issues
centering around WW I eliminated the flow of funds necessary to
maintain the operation. In any event, the Hagan Gas Engine and
Manufacturing Co. was sold around 1918 to Saunier Brothers Iron
Works of Lexington, Ky. The story of Hagan engines does not end
here, however.

Saunier Brothers was primarily a metal work fabricator. It is
not believed they ever entered the foundry business, but possibly
contracted for this work to be done. The inventory of parts and
materials from Hagan also provided a ready supply of materials
necessary to continue to construct engines. Saunier Brothers
rebuilt, repaired and assembled Hagan engines for the next few
years. One mail order house, Banks Miller Supply Co., listed Hagan
engines for sale as late as 1925. From the artwork provided in the
catalog, the engine was virtually unchanged from those built a
quarter century earlier. Nothing is found on the company after this

For the most part, Hagan Gas Engine and Manufacturing Co.
remained silent for many years. Engine enthusiasts periodically
visited the Saunier Brothers Iron Works (which remains in business
today) to try to find remnants of the former company. Once in a
while an engine part or Hagan related item would turn up.

Saunier Brothers is a compilation of several aging turn of the
century buildings, and in 1982 Tommy Turner was given permission by
the owner to search each building for materials and parts related
to Hagan. Many of the areas he had access to had not been open for
public inspection in over half a century. The search turned up a
wealth of Hagan parts, over 1,000 original shop drawings and
original Hagan patterns. Sadly, Turner learned that only four years
earlier one building containing hundreds of the original patterns
had been cleared by one of the employees, with the majority of the
patterns used for firewood. The employee spoke of one piece in
particular that was a large wheel about five feet in diameter with
big spokes (presumably a flywheel pattern). He said it took longer
for him to chop it into stove-length pieces than it did to burn.
Considering how dry the 90-year-old wood must have been, this is
not surprising.

In 1983 Turner purchased the Hagan Gas Engine and Manufacturing
Co. materials from Saunier Brothers for $200. In all, four pickup
truck loads of parts, patterns, drawings and Hagan related items
were salvaged.

About 50 Hagan engines are known to exist, ranging from one
example of a salesmen’s sample to the large 50 HP
twin-cylinder. Turner would like to start a registry of Hagan
engines, so if you have a Hagan or know of one, please mail or
e-mail any information and, if possible, a photograph on any Hagan

Contact engine enthusiast Tommy Turner at: 1174 Upton Road,
Magnolia, KY 42748, or e-mail:

Gas Engine Magazine
Gas Engine Magazine
Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines