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The Van Duzen Story

| July/August 1995

  • Unusual engine

  • Van Duzen

  • Van Duzen

  • Unusual engine
  • Van Duzen
  • Van Duzen

R.D.4,Box 185 Boyertown, Pennsylvania 19512

According to American Gasoline Engines Since 1872, compiled by C. H. Wendel, the Van Duzen engine pictured was manufactured by the Van Duzen, Roys Company, Columbus, Ohio (not to be confused with the Van Duzen Gasoline Engine Company located in Cincinnati, Ohio) founded by Benjamin C. Van Duzen in the late 1800s.

The Van Duzen, Roys Company, organized in 1912 by Frank Van Duzen, son of Benjamin C. Van Duzen, and Mr. Roys who was associated with the Columbus Machine Company, was incorporated in 1914 and, from all indication, was out of business by 1919. The engines available in l, 2, 4, 6, 8, and 12 horsepower sizes were sold only through legitimate trade channels and were not available on a mail order basis as were many engines of that period. It has also been learned that the engines were sold with a five year guarantee and were quite expensive.

The Van Duzen featured in this story is owned by Fred and Betty Serfass, who reside in the Boyertown area of Berks County, Pennsylvania. They purchased it from the second owner in 1993. It has a 4 inch bore and a 9 inch stroke, and is believed to be 4 HP. According to a brass plate affixed to the inside of the combination driver seat/storage compartment door, the engine was manufactured for George D. Lessig, Reading, Pennsylvania. Mr. Lessig and the Lessig family operated a large wholesale and retail farm equipment business in Reading for many years. The engine and truck was subsequently sold to the Schaeffer, Merkel Company, a farm equipment dealer located in Fleetwood, Pennsylvania who then sold the engine to its first owner, a resident of Oley Valley, which is adjacent to both Reading and Fleet-wood. The engine was utilized for many years to operate a threshing machine and, occasionally, a buck saw. The second owner, also a resident of the Oley Valley, acquired the engine in excellent original condition during the early 1960s. With the exception of new paint applied sometime in the 1960s, the engine and truck are all original including the wood parts, crank, low tension coil and muffler. The engine is mounted on a New Holland truck with a 63 inch wheel base. It is uncertain whether this mounting was accomplished by the Van Duzen, Roys Company or by the George D. Lessig Company. The proximity of New Holland to Reading, Pennsylvania, suggests the latter. The truck was designed to be pulled by a single horse or by manpower. The horse shafts can be easily removed and a handle attached.

The present owners have been frustrated in their attempts to locate the whereabouts of other engines manufactured by the Van Duzen, Roys Company and would like to hear from anyone owning a Van Duzen or possessing information on these engines.

6/12/2011 3:27:56 AM

I have a 1,1/2 hp Van Duzen, Roys Engine. There's not much info about them on the Net, this article above on the history of Van Duzen Roys by Gas Engine Magazine was about all I could find. So I decided to do a video of mine to show other enthusiasts what a real one looks and sounds like ...

Rob Schultz_1
9/3/2010 6:12:14 AM

I'm a descendent of the Van Duzen family; there's an error in this story: Frank Van Duzen was not Benjamin C Van Duzens son; he was his nephew. Frank is the son of Ezrah Williams Van Duzen (owner of EW Van Duzen Company/Buckeye Bell Foundry), who was Bejamin Cadwell Vanduzens brother. Benjamin had only one son (Bejamin Jr), who died as a child.


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