American-Abell Engine and Thresher Co. Ltd.

Author Norbeck

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NORBECK RESEARCH 117 Ruche Street Coplay, PA 18037

Author Norbeck and the Norbeck Research Library, which now contains over 550 binders of history and information from around the globe.

One of the most pictures que figures among pioneer Canadian manufacturers was born in England, September 17, 1822, and immigrated to Canada as a young man. In 1845, John Abell settled in the village of Woodbridge, 20 miles northwest of Toronto, Ontario. There he obtained employment in the wagon and stage coach factory operated by Wood and Ethridge.

Possessed with much inventive and mechanical ability, young John Abell was anxious to get into business for himself and in 1847 he built a small log shop and began the manufacture of mill iron and similar articles. Here he fashioned a lathe and other tools, which he constructed for his own use and built the first steam engine to be used in the district.

Assured of power to drive his machinery, he immediately made plans to increase his output and in January, 1862, moved into a larger building and began the manufacture of plows and other farm machinery.

Business increased rapidly and before many years John Abell was employing a hundred workmen and concentrating on the production of a threshing machine which he had developed and which had met with much favor. Abell's machine, which he named the Paragon, was of the apron type and geared for horsepower drive. Later, gang beaters and straw carriers were added and the separator enlarged and improved and adapted for steam power.

In 1874, the establishment was completely destroyed by fire. Undaunted by this misfortune he immediately rebuilt on an enlarged scale taking into consideration the manufacture of portable steam engines which he had been planning for some time. John Abell's first engines were of the locomotive boiler type, with an extra long smokestack topped by a screen.

John Abell stole the show at Toronto, Ontario, Canada in 1881 with his exhibit of the first cross compound threshing engine ever built in Canada.

In 1886, John Abell built his first traction engine by adding steel rear drive wheels and steering controls to his standard Triumph portable engine. Abell's early tractions were driven by a friction belt from the main shaft to the countershaft.

Lance Corporal Findlater of the Gordon Highlanders won the Victoria Cross at the assault on the Dargai Hill in Northern India on October 20th, 1897. Shot through both legs, he sat through a hail of bullets and continued to cheer his hard pressed comrades with the stirring tune 'Cock O the North' on his bagpipes.

John Abell was so impressed that he named his new separator the 'Cock O' The North' and incorporated the story and illustrations of the epic feat in his catalog. The American-Abell firm went further by adopting a game rooster on a stump as its trademark, and calling the output the 'Cock O' The North' line. The American-Abell engines had the figure of a rooster cast in the smoke box door.

The sands of time run out for all men. In 1902 this energetic man was in his 80th year, with no family and in failing health. Consequently the big Abell factory had to be sold. He lived until August 7th, 1903, long enough to see that his name would continue to be associated with threshing machinery for years to come.

American-Abell 20 HP steam traction engine built in 1905 by the American-Abell Engine and Thresher Co., Ltd., Toronto, Ontario and owned by Bill Johnson of Ontario, Canada.

Photo taken at Norwich and District Historical Society's Show at Norwich, Ontario by Jack C. Norbeck, author of Encyclopedia of American Steam Traction Engines and included in the 3rd revised edition. See article about the American-Abell firm in this issue.

In 1902 the Advance Thresher and the Minneapolis Threshing Machine jointly purchased the John Abell plant in Toronto, and renamed it the American-Abell Engine and Thresher Company Limited. Although American owned, the new company immediately adopted the policy of 'Canadian-made goods for Canadian users' and continued without interruption to build the threshing machinery formerly manufactured by the John Abell Engine and Machine Works Co.

When the great Rumely merger took place in 1912, the American-Abell factory was included and the 'Cock O' the North' line was discontinued.

No further engines were built. The boiler of the last steam traction engine shipped west served as a heating plant for the Allis-Chalmers-Rumely building in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The company built a total of nearly 2,500 farm engines, the majority of which went to the Canadian West where the Cock O' the North line was a famous name.