United Engine Found in Creek Bank

An air-cooled United engine turns up in the bank of a creek in Kansas

The United engine as it was found on a creek bank

The United engine as it was found on a creek bank.

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This month's Vintage Iron photos are of a United air-cooled engine rescued from a creek bank in Kansas. The engine was purchased at a local auction by a junk collector who bought all the iron from south of the barn to an old well along the creek. He didn't even know the engine was there, nor did anyone at the auction. 

After the sale, he was cleaning up the iron and found the old United where it had been discarded years ago. It was about 60 feet north of the old well (which still had a pump and pump jack on it, no doubt the United's last job). It had been dumped over the creek bank, and was about 15 feet from the creek, standing on end and half-buried under rolls of old fencing and tin, tanks, and other discarded farm scrap.

The engine is a United type A built in 1912 or later by Associated Manufacturers Co., Waterloo, Iowa, for the United Engine Co. of Lansing, Mich. The 1-1/2 hp air-cooled engine sold for $28 in 1913, and was later re-rated to 1-3/4 hp, and then sold for $36. The Associated air-cooled was built and sold as the "Chore Boy," and retailed in 1913 for $40.

Many parts are common to the two engines. The rocker arm, ignitor, timing gear, rod and piston, main and rod caps, and governor weights are all interchangeable, and some have the same part numbers. Associated used letters for their part numbers (for example, the connecting rod is labeled ABY). The major difference between the two engines is the way the cylinder bolts to the base and the engine base. Associated bolts back to the full base, and United bolts down to the base, and uses a sub-base. Most United engines use a cast iron carburetor of their own design similar to a Lunkenheimer, where Associated used a simpler design with a standard needle valve and seat. The later Uniteds sometimes have an Associated-style carburetor which is the case with this air-cooled engine. Both of the air-cooled engines have a 3-3/4x5-inch bore and stroke. The United engine's name plate is on the side of the main base, while Associated put its plate on the back of the base (and on the water hopper on some models).

A September 1913 ad from Gas Power Magazine pitches the "Biggest Buy Ever Offered ...": only $28 retail for a 1-1/2 hp air-cooled. At first glance, you think you are getting the biggest – the 12 hp pictured for the price of $28. But when you read the smaller print, you will find that they are selling you the smallest of their line.

The United line received attention in Gas Power's editorial pages that issue as well.

"The United Engine Company at Lansing, Mich., states that owing to the extreme simplicity of the United line and high class of workmanship and material used in their construction, and the popular price at which United engines are sold, they have met the popular demand and their extensive business is increasing very rapidly. The United line includes all sizes from the 1 1/2 hp which retails at $28, up to 12 hp. The engines are furnished completed, with a full iron base, built-in magneto can be furnished on the engines on special order. The line includes stationary, skidded and portable. Complete details with special agency proposition may be had by writing to C.L. Sprinkle, president of the company." FC 

A collector for more than 26 years, Wayne Walker Jr. is the marketing director and a columnist for Farm Collector.