Uncovering the Past and Obscure Engine Manufacturers

Reader Contribution by Staff

This issue shines a light on several obscure manufacturers from the past, including White Lily Washer Co. and Schmidt Bros. Co. Engine Works, both of Davenport, Iowa. Although the full story of the apparently intertwining interests of these two firms remains to be discovered, Glenn Thompson’s article provides more information than I’ve seen anywhere. White Lily and Schmidt Bros. apparently sold the same engine, likely built at the same factory, but what exactly inspired their business practices appears to be lost to history. However, given the capacity of old engine collectors to ferret out seemingly lost information, we might yet learn more about the history of these two engine manufacturers.

On that note, Charles Wise shares the fruits of his research into the labors of Frank Hardenbrook and William Rice of Jasper, Missouri, designers of the air-cooled, ported exhaust engine ultimately made famous by Gade Bros. Mfg. Co., Iowa Falls, Iowa. The Gade engine was based on Hardenbrook and Rice’s 1904 patent. However, according to a 1901 newspaper article, the pair had patented an engine three years earlier, in 1901. While it is likely safe to assume the referenced patent featured an engine similar to the 1904 patent, that can’t be said with certainty as no patent prior to the 1904 awarding has surfaced. Further, it’s entirely possible there was no 1901 patent and that Hardenbrook and Rice were playing to the future, claiming a patent that had yet to be awarded, a not uncommon occurrence at the time. Given that they filed their application for the 1904 patent in 1902, it seems likely the basic features of the engine had been worked out well in advance during prototyping and initial design. Regardless, Charles’ research has uncovered a new and until now unpublished accounting of Hardenbrook and Rice’s efforts, and like the White Lily/Schmidt Bros. story, we can hope there’s more to learn.

Finally, following this unintended theme, Coolspring Power Museum founder Paul Harvey shares the interesting story of Victor Hugo Palm’s design for a “combined gas and air engine,” designed, as the phrase suggests, to run on gas or air.

Victor was the son of George Palm, who designed convertible gas/steam engines and established Palm Gas Engine Co., Butler, Pennsylvania, around 1900. Although there are no indications Victor’s design ever saw production, at least one scale engine following his design was constructed, although by whom is unknown. Paul happened across the scale engine and was able to purchase it, and he’s recently finished its restoration. With any luck, he’ll have it running on air – and maybe gas! – at the fall Coolspring Exposition and Swap Meet, Oct. 18-20, 2018.

Richard Backus

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