In the middle of the 19th century, in the towns of Smithsburg and Ringgold, Md., two men began their careers in manufacturing, eventually building companies that changed the world of agriculture.
Peter Geiser started work on a grain separator on his farm located just west of Smithsburg sometime in the early 1850s, and in 1852 Peter Geiser was granted his first patent for his grain separator, the Geiser Separator. During this same period (around 1850), George Frick, in Ringgold, built his first steam engine – using chisels and files to machine the homemade castings he had made. In 1862 George Frick moved his business to Waynesboro, Pa.
Around 1879, Frick asked Geiser to move into the Frick shops in Waynesboro, which Geiser did. At this time Geiser was building separators and Frick was building steam engines.
It was also around this time that George Frick started to build his own separators, so Geiser took a trip to Lancaster, Pa., and brought A.B. and F. F. Landis, who had built the Peerless steam engine in Lancaster, back to Waynesboro. In 1881 the first Geiser steam engines left the shops. A.B. & F.F. Landis started their own companies, Landis Tool & Die and Landis Machine. In 1889 Geiser went to Hagerstown and bought the patents for a clover huller from the Hagerstown Steam Engine & Machine Co. Later, around 1900, Geiser bought the old Crowell Mfg. Co. in Greencastle, Pa., to build gas engines.
In 1912 Peter Geiser sold to his company to the Emerson-Brantingham Co., which kept control of the company until 1924 when it was sold back to a group of men from Waynesboro. The J.I. Case Co. bought Emerson-Brantingham in 1926. The end of Geiser came in 1940 when a fire burned the factory to the ground.
In addition to building tractors, George Frick expanded into refrigeration machinery in 1882. Frick also had a full line of farm equipment, as did Geiser, and Frick sawmills were considered among the best ever made. Frick went out of the farm machinery business in the late 1940s, and York International of York, Pa., owns the Frick Co. to this day. The Frick name is still used on a line of refrigeration equipment.
There were, it should be noted, other companies in the area that made an impact. Aside from its steam engines, the Crowell Mfg. Co. (which, as previously mentioned, Geiser later bought) in Greencastle, Pa., made a very good grain drill, and the Quincy Engine Co. in Quincy, Pa., made gas engines. The Hagerstown Steam Engine & Machine Co. in Hagerstown, Md., was a full line company that went out of business in the late 1890s, bought out by the Foltz Mfg. Co., which is still in business today.
Contact steam enthusiast Mike Rohrer at: 12025 Steven Ave., Smithsburg, MD 21783. E-mail at: email@example.com.