Dempster Engine Wins Over International Fan

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This Dempster marks its centennial this year. It is part of a collection of engines owned by Jim Wise, Sedalia, Mo.
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Dempster engines were never produced in large numbers, meaning that when a Dempster surfaces today, it's fairly rare.

Jim Wise has always been an International Harvester fan. He once worked as an IH salesman. He has a collection of more than two dozen International Harvester engines. He’s searching high and low for a Titan Junior. He’s working on a 1914 Mogul 8-16 hp, a model so rare he’s never seen another. But when he first laid eyes on his buddy’s 6 hp 1898 Dempster – the oldest known Dempster – the green-eyed monster got him.

“I just fell in love with it when I saw it,” he said.

The Dempster Mill Manufacturing Company started out in pumps and windmills. Just after the turn of the century, the Beatrice, Neb., company began production of gas engines.

Reclaimed from a Colorado fence row, where it had been abandoned to the elements, the single cylinder Dempster was purchased and restored by a friend of Jim’s. Jim ultimately talked his buddy out of the engine, and has had it since 1985. He’s exhibited the Dempster at several shows, and it never fails to draw a crowd.

“It’s unique,” he said. “It’s a two-cycle built on a principle more or less like a steam engine. It has a crosshead design, and the connecting rod is in two pieces. Part of the rod is connected to the piston and is stationary, and the back half goes from the crankshaft, and that way it can rotate. I guess they thought there’d be less wear that way on the packing.”

The engine’s original restoration was a good one, Jim said.

“I haven’t had to do anything to it,” he said. “It runs pretty good. For a two-cycle, it runs extra good.”

Jim also collects toy steam engines – “any steam engine, really,” he said – popcorn engines, old tools and wrenches, and cast iron seats.

“Most anything,” he said.

He raises soybeans and corn, and has a few cattle. In the winter, he buys furs. And in his spare time, he works on his collection, including the Dempster, which still fascinates him.

“I’ve never seen another one like it,” he said. “It’s a rare engine.” FC

For more information, contact Jim Wise, 25200 Bothwell Park Road, Sedalia, Mo., 65301; (660) 827-4993.

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