The Standard Machine Works and The Union Gas Engine Company

By Staff
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2024 Gambels Way, Santa Rosa, California 95403

I am writing this article in the hopes of adding to the
knowledge and history of a couple of early-day San Francisco,
California engine companies: The Standard Machine Works and the
Union Gas Engine Company.

In C. H. Wendel’s American Gasoline Engines page 477, it
states that ‘By 1903 Standard Gas Engine Company was
organized.’ Also stated in the text is ‘in reality may have
been in operation for some time previously.’ I believe I can
shed some light on this.

I have an original 1902 Standard Machine Works catalog. The
catalog lists the company’s complete line of stationary and
marine engines, written testimonials from users and photos of the
launches that they installed their marine engine in.

Photo #1 is the cover of the 1902 catalog with the addition of a
glued-on Standard Gas Engine Company salesman’s calling-card, a
stamped new company name on top and the hand written words
‘successors to.’ It would appear that with the start-up of
the new company in late 1902 or early 1903, Standard Gas Engine
Company used the old company catalog.

Photo #2 is the cover sheet. Of interest is the lack of
people’s names, considering it was a corporation.

The announcement page states that ‘Standard Machine Works is
composed of thoroughly practical mechanics who have had years of
experience in the special branch of machine work of building gas
engines of all varieties. The Standard Gas Engine is the result of
the combined mechanical skill and inventive talent and experience
of the gentle-men who are directors of the company…’ The
announcement is signed Standard Machine Works. In fact, there is
not one employee name in the entire catalog. With the exception of
some 20 written and dated (1902) testimonials, there is no other
printed date in the entire text.

Photos #3 & #4 illustrate a couple of three cylinder
engines; one marine, the second stationary. The hand-written
information below each engine stating its size was added by
Standard Gas Engine Company. The original sizing of these three
cylinder engines noted in printed text, was 50 and 70 HP. The 50 HP
marine net weight being 7,200 pounds, the 70 HP being 9,000 pounds.
They also list a four-cylinder, 100 HP at 13,500 pounds net. The
list includes one cylinder 2 HP through 8 HP and two cylinder 10
through 40.

By reading the testimonials, all dated June 1902, the company
had been in business for at least 1 years prior to June 1902.

The igniter, vaporizer, governor, adjustable electrodes, and wet
exhaust systems on their engines were all of Standard’s own
design. All engines were guaranteed to operate with less than 10
revolutions difference between full and no load. All stationary
engines were designed to run on gas or crude oil. The company
stated that if operated on ‘Mobaline’ oil, you could get 1
horsepower per hour for one cent.

Photo #5 shows a couple of launches in San Francisco Bay with
Standard Gas Engines installed. The lower photos show the opening
to the Bay in the background. To those readers not familiar with
this area, the Golden Gate Bridge has spanned that opening for the
last 58 years.

Regarding the Union Gas Engine Company of San Francisco; page
518 of C. H. Wendel’s American Gas Engines, shows an August,
1892 advertisement of a Regan Vapor Engine as built by Union Gas
Engine Company of San Francisco. The article notes that the company
must have been in business prior to August 1892, because ‘over
800 of these popular engines are in use on the Pacific
Coast.’

I have an original 1892 catalog of the Union Gas Engine Company
that has some interesting information.

Photo #6 shows the cover of the catalog.

Photo #7 is the title page. The introduction states the fact
that the company built and sold over 500 Vapor engines in 1891. A
title headed ‘caution’ states, ‘Our engines are
manufactured under the patents of the Regan Vapor Engine Company
and the Pacific Gas Engine Company, and we shall vigorously
prosecute any infringement of same.’

Photo #8 is an early Vapor engine. The list of stationary
engines ranges in size from 2 HP to 15 HP. The 2 HP weighs in at
750 pounds with a flywheel, selling for $275.00. No weight is given
on the 15 HP unit, but it sold for $1,300.00. They built larger
engines by quote only (up to 6 HP).

The Union Gas Engine Company was proud to state that their
engine ran equally well on gasoline, natural gas, or illuminating
gas. Their cost running facts are unique; (1) no expense until
started; (2) no necessity of starting until the power is required;
(3) expense while running always in exact proportion to the amount
of power used; (4) the moment engine stops, all expense stops. I
guess anyone who could afford $275.00 in 1892 to buy a 2 horse
engine, probably just laughed at this nonsense cost-analysis.

The company sold pump/engine packages using Gould’s
centrifugal and double acting gear pumps. They also furnished
everything necessary for deep well pumping.

In the ‘useful information section’ regarding weights,
measures, flow calculations, etc. one unusual term was ‘a
miner’s inch of water.’ For those of us who have never
heard the term, it is the amount that will flow through an opening
one inch square in a plank two inches thick, under a head of six
inches of water, above the upper edge of the opening, and is equal
to 11.625 GPM.

The earliest testimonial in the catalog is dated November 12,
1890. A new battery was installed on a Regan Vapor Engine used in a
winery at Rutherford, California. Another one dated December 31,
1890 states that his Vapor engine has run satisfactorily for nine
months. So it. seems clear that Union Gas Engine Company was in
business by early 1890.

The company also built launches. The catalog goes into some
detail about the woods used, the positioning of the engine and how
their own patented friction clutch operated. A 1 HP engine in a 19
foot launch cost $575.00. A 28 foot launch with a 6 HP engine was
$1200.00.

Photo #9 gives prices for engines installed in your own
boat.

I hope this information is of use to someone interested in early
San Francisco engine companies.

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