Gas Engine Magazine

John Smyth or Economy Engine?

Reader Contribution by Staff

My dad bought this engine sometime between 1915-1920. He used it in the 1940s for various chores around the farm. The last duty was to run the clothes washer. The washer sat on the porch and the engine sat out in the yard connected with a flat belt. Sometimes my mom had trouble starting it, so she would short out the batteries with the crank, and if she saw a spark, that eliminated the ignition. The trouble is, my brother told me it was an economy, but one day a gentleman said it was not. So, I need help to identify it. The tag says “John M. Smyth MDSE Co. Chicago ILL Serial 74142 1-1/2 HP.” This engine has been in our family around 100 years. Thank you for any help you can give.

Wayner Marner
1207 Fairlane Dr.
Valparaiso, IN 46383

Wayne, your engine was made by Waterloo Gas Engine Co., Waterloo, Iowa. Waterloo made engines for a host of companies – at least 67 by some accounts – John Smyth being one of them. According to Jimmy Priestley’s Waterloo serial number list (, your engine was built in 1913, which times out about right considering you think it was purchased around 1915 or later. – Editor

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  • Published on May 8, 2018
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