Virtue and Pound is One-of-a-Kind
Collector buys a mystery engine that turns out to be a one-of-a-kind Virtue and Pound
Gene DeCamp had no idea what this engine was when he bought it. A chance conversation, though, identified it as a Virtue and Pound from Minnesota. "I got it because it was unique," he said. "An upside-down hot tube ... it's just a challenge. I kind of like those banged-up engines." His best guess is that it was built in 1898-99.
Gene DeCamp was stumped.
He'd bought a unique engine from a friend. The seller – Harold Ottoway, Wichita, Kan. – didn't know anything about the engine, and the man he'd bought it from years earlier hadn't had any information either. All Gene knew was what he could see: The engine was complete except for the mixer and a lever that operated the mixer from the governor weight; it was stuck; and the engine had been converted from a hot tube ignition to spark plug.
He even ran photographs and a plea for help in Gas Engine Magazine, but to no avail. One day, a friend – also an engine collector – was looking over Gene's iron pile.
"Gene," said George Carbonneau of Bottineau, N.D., "I have an engine just like that one."
George was sure that Gene's engine was, like his, a Virtue and Pound, made in Owatonna, Minn. To make sure, though, he came up with photos of his engine. The photos confirmed George's identification, but they also pointed up some differences.
"George's engine is a hit-and-miss, has doughnut flywheels, and the name and location of manufacture are cast in the base," Gene said. "My engine is throttle governed, the flywheels are conventional large diameter, and narrow; and – other than the number 1 – there's no name or identifying marks cast in the base."
"They're the only two I've heard of," he said. "There's no others known of anywhere. I've checked around and advertised, looking for leads."
Still, he had enough to run with. Gene set out to research Virtue and Pound.
"James J. Hill Reference Library, St. Paul, Minn.: No information," Gene recounted. "Minnesota Historical Library, St. Paul: No information. Todd County Historical Library, Long Prairie, Minn: No information."
Finally, he got a bite at the Owatonna Public Library.
"In 1887, D.E. Virtue and C.L. Pound started the company called Virtue and Pound," he said. "According to an advertisement in the paper, the company was wholesalers and retailers, selling wood and iron pumps, pipe and tubular well supplies. The company also sold windmills, carriages and carts."
In 1901 another name was added to the partnership: E.T. Winship. The three organized an automobile plant and actually produced three automobiles (selling for $1,250 each). In March 1903, they demonstrated that their 10 hp motorcar could pull through six inches of sticky mud on North Cedar Street in Owatonna.
The final reference Gene found to Virtue and Pound was dated March 10, 1937, when the firm marked its 50th anniversary. All area farmers were invited to celebrate the occasion with free lunch and movies. "They expected 1,000 people to attend," reported the People's Press of Owatonna. After that mention, the company seemingly disappeared.