A Devilishly Divine Find

Red devil water motor turns up in ashes of burned-out building.

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by Jim White

While poking around in a burned-out building, I found an unusual-shaped piece of cast iron covered in soot and melted plastic. I asked the owner about it, and he did not know what it was, but for $15, it could be mine. The shape indicated that it might be a water motor, but I could not tell for sure, and certainly could not see any writing on it due to melted plastic covering one side.

As soon as I got this specimen home, I pressure-washed it and then ran it through the bead blaster. Hooray! It was a Red Devil water motor. There was no damage to the exterior, and when I removed the side cover, I could see the water wheel was not damaged. After bead-blasting the inside, I discovered a cast-brass Pelton water wheel.

A 1908 advertisement placed by Divine Water Motor Co., Utica, New York, manufacturerer of the Red Devil, described the unit this way: “Six-inch motor would run a washing machine, and a 4-inch would run an emery wheel for grinding, polishing, buffing and also will run a sewing machine. Furnished complete with pulley, belt and different outfits. The most convenient and economical power for small tools, fans, blowers, etc. Used extensively by mechanics, dentists, druggists, grocers, butchers, plumbers etc.”

The Divine company promoted the Red Devil as being “an improved patented, bucket-wheel construction that is scientifically and mechanically perfect. The most successful small water motor made. Our tremendous output brings the price down within the reach of every mechanic, every householder. Thousands are giving satisfaction. Each motor tested carefully and fully guaranteed.”

From the limited testing I have done, using the described motor wheel, the power is greatly overstated, and it takes a tremendous amount of water for operational power.

The actual working part of the motor is a Pelton wheel, first built by Lester Pelton, who went to California during the gold rush. He was not a successful “gold digger” but found work as a carpenter. In 1876, Pelton commissioned Miners Foundry in Nevada City, California, to build the first iron models, and the first wheel was installed at the Mayflower Mine in Nevada City in 1878. FC


For more information: Contact Jim White at 7821 Dewberry Lane, Cedar Hill, MO 63016; email: hitandmiss@brick.net.

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