Pumped About Pumps
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Among the various pump types, many different brands, styles and degrees of quality existed, Doug says. Ornate cylinders were lined with porcelain and brass, while standard cylinders were cast iron. Most had leather cups to seal the cylinders, which prevented leakage. The reason for different materials, Doug says, was because some people unjustly feared that drinking from cast iron wasn't healthy.
Almost all pumps are collectible, and any brand is good, Doug says, but like many old-iron collectors, he prefers the strange stuff. 'If you look at my pumps, you'll notice I like the cut-out letters or the pumps with the wide, ornate bases that strengthened the pump, and I also like the ones with a pump jack attachment,' he says. A pumpjack attaches to an engine or other device to power the pump. 'There's also cistern pumps, which are another subculture altogether,' Doug adds. 'These pumps would run from the cistern all the way to the kitchen.'
Among Doug's favorite brands are Aermotor Co., Fairbanks, Morse & Co. and Enterprise Wind Mill Co. These companies often produced pumps in beautiful and odd designs, but they're difficult to locate.
Doug's search for unusual brands of pumps takes some wild and unexpected turns, many times revealing obscure, unknown brands. No comprehensive study of well pump manufacturers exists largely due to the vast number of small-scale pump manufacturers. 'The whole deal is that the pump manufacturers were very regional,' Doug says. 'For instance, here in Iowa, the regional pump manufacturers were Dempster Mfg. Co., Red Jacket Mfg. Co. and A.Y. McDonald Co., to name a few. You search around this area, and that's the majority of what you find. Now, if you look in some neighboring states, you'll likely find other brands.'
Small, local companies often gained a good foothold on the local market by selling a wide array of pumps before larger firms moved into town. 'For instance, Meyers put out a horrendous amount of styles - hundreds of combinations of pump parts,' Doug says. Bigger companies like Deere & Co. and International Harvester Co. couldn't compete with that local coverage. Instead, they produced accessories like pumpjacks and water-well pumping engines.
'The large amount of these small companies makes it particularly hard to research with any sort of success because, in many cases, they were only around for a short time,' Doug explains. 'If they were in business for five years and were small, it's going to be hard for me to research them. It takes money to make money, and often these smaller companies didn't have enough to stay in business for long or to promote themselves.'
Promotional materials do exist, however. Doug owns about 30 catalogs of assorted brands that range from brochures and pamphlets to hard-covered or cloth-covered catalogs. Among the most-common catalogs was F.E. Meyers Mfg. Co. of Ashland, Ohio, which also produced a variety of farm items including hay carriers. 'They put out three to five catalogs each year, and some later ones were in color about 1920,' Doug says. 'Red Jacket pump catalogs were a little unusual, too, because they're named after an Indian chief. The picture of him is on the front cover. His name was Sa-go-ye-wat-ha.' Doug doesn't collect the catalogs for show as much as he collects them for inspiration. 'To tell the truth, I just like to read them and dream about seeing these very strange pumps,' he admits. 'It really makes you want to find one.'