The White Lily Engine Connection
Circa-1906 3 hp White Lily
Manufacturer: White Lily Washer Co., Davenport, IA
Year: circa 1906
Serial No.: 600
Horsepower: 3 hp @ 550rpm
Bore & Stroke: 4in x 4in
Flywheel: 18in x 1-1/2in
Ignition: Spark plug w/battery and buzz coil
Governing: Hit-and-miss, flywheel weights
Nobody would say that Sam T. White had a head start in life. Born in Saint Blazey, Cornwall, England, on Feb. 1, 1868, Sam T. White was at an early age exposed to hard labor on the family farm. His father had gone to the United States as a young man and joined the “49ers” who went west searching for gold. After prospecting and mining for a number of years, he returned to England in 1866, married and settled into a rural life. He may not have brought back a great deal of wealth, but he did return with visions of the opportunities available in the New World, which he shared with his son. In 1884, aged 16, Sam emigrated to the United States.
Sam hit the ground running. He lived in Staatsburg, New York, for a brief period, but soon went to Canada. Sam was a big, strong youth, and this stood him in good stead as he worked on farms, dug ditches and wells, and cut down trees in lumber camps. While in Canada, he began to sell bicycles, which were a hot item at that time.
In 1891, Sam moved to Chicago, Illinois, and sold bicycles produced by firms such as the Stokes Co., the Monarch Mfg. Co. and the Stover Bicycle Mfg. Co. He became a traveling salesman for Western Wheelworks and established his headquarters in Davenport, Iowa. While employed he discovered there was a market for washing machines, and he began to sell the Voss Bros. Ocean Wave Washers.
Sam was a good salesman. A large man, he cut an imposing figure and radiated confidence and good will. He liked being around people and he enjoyed talking to people, and he was always ready to lend a hand if someone needed help.
Appreciating that many women were still washing clothes by hand, Sam joined with two partners – Bernard L. Schmidt and Franz L. Schmidt – to form the White Lily Washer Co. on Nov. 1, 1902, with Bernard as president, Franz vice president and Sam secretary and treasurer. The business prospered. At its peak, the factory consisted of a 50,000-square-foot building on 5 acres of land. The factory could produce 500 washing machines a day, and these were sold across the U.S. and in Australia and a number of European countries, as well.
White’s DeLuxe Jr. Washing Machine cost $7, but agitating the clothes required physically moving a handle back and forth. The washer was available with an electric motor for $50. That was fine for women living in homes wired for electricity, but the majority of homes in rural areas didn’t have that luxury, so another option was offered to them – a washer with a pulley that could be belted to a gas engine – a White Lily gasoline engine, of course. A 3 hp, 4-cycle, air-cooled White Lily engine was $69.75.
It’s unknown whether Henry Stoltenberg, an associate of the White Lily Washer Co., was responsible for the initial design of the White Lily engine, but he had a hand in the engine, including designing the cooling fins that were attached to the flywheels and was granted patents 828,867 in 1906, 863,234 in 1907, and 880,835 in 1908.
In 1907, the White Lily Washer Co. was renamed the White Lily Mfg. Co. to reflect the fact that the company now produced a variety of items, not just washing machines. This was the first of several financial and legal maneuvers.
The Schmidt brothers
Carl F. and Sophia Schmidt were immigrants from Germany who came to the United States in 1847. A cabinetmaker in Germany, Carl became a farmer in Iowa and later raised grapes and made wine. Carl’s son Bernard L. Schmidt was born on Oct. 22, 1869, in Davenport. He was a student in the public schools in Davenport and later completed a business course at the Davenport Business College. Bernard first worked as a machinist for William Sternburg and then took a job with the Voss Brothers Co. That firm made furniture fixtures, doors, door sashes, blinds, and wooden-soled shoes with leather tops. Bernard’s brother, Franz L. Schmidt, was born on Nov. 19, 1876, in Davenport. Like his brother, he attended public schools and later completed a business course at the Davenport Business College.
In 1897, Bernard and Franz purchased the Voss Brothers Co. and became jobbers for the items produced by that firm. The new company was known as the Schmidt Bros. Co. In 1902, the Schmidt brothers sold the Schmidt Bros. Co., purchased the patent for the Little Giant Ice Crusher and formed the Davenport Ice Chipping Machine Co., with Bernard as president. The Little Giant Ice Crusher was a commercial machine designed for use in hotels, restaurants and saloons. As noted previously, in 1902, Bernard, Franz and Sam T. White formed the White Lily Washer Co., with Bernard as president, Franz as vice president and Sam as secretary and treasurer. This firm manufactured the White Lily gasoline engine.
In 1904, the Schmidt brothers organized the Schmidt Bros. Co. Engine Works, with Bernard as president and Franz as vice president. This firm produced Schmidt’s Chilled Cylinder gasoline engines. “Chilled Cylinder” was a reference to a manufacturing process in which the cylinder walls are chilled while metal is being poured to form the rest of the engine. Supposedly, this produced cylinder walls that were harder and denser, which resisted wear better.
In 1909, the Schmidt brothers purchased the White Lily Mfg. Co.’s engine works and combined it with the Davenport Ice Chipping Machine Co., forming the Schmidt Bros. Co. Engine Works. The Schmidt brothers continued to produce the White Lily gasoline engine as well as Schmidt’s Chilled Cylinder engines.
Rapid changes in company ownership make plotting the history of these companies more than a little challenging. In July 1909, the White Lily engine was advertised as being made by the White Lily Mfg. Co. In August of that year the White Lily engine was advertised as being made by the Davenport Ice Chipping Machine Co., and one month later, in September, the White Lily engine was advertised as being made by the Schmidt Bros. Co. Engine Works, formerly the Davenport Ice Chipping Machine Co.
Sam T. White purchased the Schmidt Bros. Co. Engine Works in May 1910. That same year, the 3 hp White Lily engine sold for $97.50, the Schmidt’s Chilled Cylinder 4 hp engine sold for $99.50, the Schmidt’s Chilled Cylinder 5 hp engine sold for $119.50, and the Schmidt’s Chilled Cylinder 7-1/2 hp engine sold for $167.50. Engine production appears to have stopped soon after, although White Lily was still listed as a washer manufacturer in the Jan. 22, 1916, issue of Electrical Review and Western Electrician.
Sam T. White died in 1929 at age 61 and was buried in the Oakdale Cemetery in Davenport. After he passed away, his business interests faded from the commercial scene. Franz L. Schmidt died on Aug. 10, 1912, at the young age of 36. His brother, Bernard L. Schmidt, died on Nov. 21, 1937, at the age of 68. Both brothers were buried in the Fairmont Cemetery in Davenport. None of the above companies exist today.
Harry Seidensticker’s White Lily
Harry Seidensticker is a native-born Texan who has lived all of his life on the ranch established by his ancestors in the Texas Hill Country. A few decades ago, Harry’s brother-in-law Allen Becker got him interested in old engines and he became an avid collector. Harry’s wife, Mary, wasn’t as excited about all of that old iron showing up on the place, but faced with the enthusiasm of both her husband and her brother, she resigned herself to her fate.
Harry now has a substantial collection of old engines – running and otherwise – scattered around the ranch. One of these is his pride and joy: a White Lily engine. Harry has only been able to identify three other White Lily engines in the United States. The brass tag on his engine bears serial No. 600.
There is nothing on Harry’s engine that provides an indication of its horsepower rating. Comparison with photos of other White Lily engines suggests the engine might be a 3 hp model. If the engine is a 3 hp model, it has a 4-inch bore and a 4-inch stroke and produces 3 hp at 550rpm. The engine has a Lunkenheimer carburetor, and engine speed is governed by a hit-and-miss system, with the ignition and fuel withheld intermittently to retard acceleration. Ignition is by a spark plug, a battery and a buzz coil. The flywheels measure 18 inches in diameter and are 1-1/2 inches thick. Harry’s engine does not have cooling fins on the flywheel, however, as issued from the factory. These were fan blades, attached to a band clamped around the flywheel. A previous owner might have removed them for safety’s sake, as they were undoubtedly dangerous. On later models, a screen covered the flywheel to protect the operator. Raised letters and numbers on the flywheel indicate that engine was patented on Aug. 13, 1907. A rather cryptic company name is crudely inscribed on the other flywheel – “YY L MFG CO 72.”
Harry purchased the White Lily engine in February 1979, from a Mrs. Bacon, who lived near Comfort, Texas, and was disposing of things that had belonged to her late husband. He paid $75 for the White Lily engine and two Stover engines – a considerable investment at that time for three rusty hunks of iron that had been left to deteriorate in an old shed. The White Lily engine was in terrible condition, with a stuck piston and a broken crankshaft, among other problems. Harry worked out a deal with an acquaintance, Sig Johnson, who agreed to restore the White Lily engine in return for one of the Stover engines. Mr. Johnson determined that the gas tank and the battery box were beyond repair, so he fabricated replacements. When the restoration was finished, he painted the engine light blue, as that happened to be the color of some paint he had on hand. Harry thinks that the original color was green.
As a happy ending to this story, Harry has greatly enjoyed owning, operating and displaying his White Lily engine. His wife, Mary, now acknowledges that maybe the acquisition wasn’t such a bad deal after all, and they plan to pass on this and other engines and tractors to their grandsons, who are just as interested in old iron as “Opie.”
Harry Seidensticker enjoys talking about old engines. He can be reached at (830) 739-1263.
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