Embossed John Deere Engine

Author Photo
By Jim White

The embossed John Deere engine differs from regular model E engines, a common mystique of rare engines produced in small numbers.

Jim White
The author’s John Deere 3hp embossed Model E engine was shipped to the company’s Minneapolis branch in April 1922.

The John Deere 3hp Model E embossed engine is often described as the most elusive of all the John Deere hit-and-miss engines, and certainly commands the highest price.


photo by: Jim White

A close-up of the embossed detail on the author’s John Deere 3hp embossed engine.

It appears production of the 3hp embossed Model E began on or about April 20, 1922, well before the date included in the published serial number list available today, and terminates with Decision No. 5487 dated Feb. 6, 1923, with the decision approved by Chief Engineer Elmer McCormick.

The decision reason reads as follows: Cast raised design of John Deere trademark on water pot is unsatisfactory. Brand water pot ‘John Deere’ by using silk screen stencil similar to ‘Waterloo Boy’ Type H engines. Letter to be one inch high. Cost of stencil 75 cents — last about 500 engines. Increase labor cost $1 per 100 engines.


photo by: Jim White

The engine’s large brass tag is attached to the back of the high base.

Seven complete John Deere 3hp embossed engines are known to exist. That number has remained constant for the last 40 years with the last known recorded “embossed” to surface being Serial no. 229501.

The only exception is in the state of Washington, where an embossed block has been found, but everything else on the engine is the same as on a typical 3hp Model E engine. Did the company use an embossed block and build the engine with later-style parts, or was the engine at some point rebuilt by an individual private collector?


photo by: Jim White

The embossed 3hp engine’s igniter has no outboard cover over the moveable electrode and rivet-style pins.

Years ago, the previous owner of the embossed John Deere engine I now own made an inquiry to the John Deere archives. In a letter dated Jan. 29, 1982, John Deere Archivist Les Stegh wrote: In response to your recent request, our record indicates that E engine #226521 was built on 20 April 1922 and shipped to our Minneapolis branch. Our record also indicates that the use of the raised trademark on the water hopper on E engines ended with #229501 (1923).

All known John Deere 3hp embossed Model E engines (226501 through 226533) were shipped April 20, 1922, to Minneapolis with a JR magneto. The other six known engines have these serial numbers: 226508, 226511, 226514, 226516, 226520 and 226519.

A one-family engine

How I came into possession of my 3hp embossed Model E engine is a story in itself, and one with a pleasant ending. It started with an email asking if I was still looking for an embossed engine. I had never heard of the person who’d sent the email, but certainly this piqued my interest, like holding a dead chicken in front of an alligator and asking if it is hungry.


photo by: Jim White

The author’s John Deere 3hp embossed Model E engine after restoration.

I responded with a phone number and the man and I began a phone dialogue. The owner was extremely knowledgeable about the engine, even though he indicated it was disassembled, parts were spread among several boxes, and it was his only stationary gas engine.

Fact is, it had been in his family since the day when it was purchased new, but due to age, he thought it was time to part with the engine. When he told me his age, I kept my mouth shut, as I was older than him. When I drove several states away to look at the engine, it was exactly as he described, except he also had an original Waterloo cart for sale. It was certainly nice to do business with someone who was so nice and friendly, and just a good guy.

A fairly uncomplicated restoration project

With an engine that’s been disassembled for 40 years, there have to be some issues or it would not have been taken apart in the first place. With this engine, the gas tank was one example of that. Since the gas line was soldered to the bottom curved section of the tank, it was necessary to find my best old used tank to use in restoring the engine correctly.

There was also a small hairline crack in the bottom of the water hopper. Fixing that was just a matter of grinding a V and welding. The rest was normal restoration work: valve job, rings, adjust bearings and sandblast.


photo by: Jim White

The John Deere 3hp embossed engine’s block after sandblasting.

After extensive research, the first patent requests for the John Deere Model E engine that I was able to locate were submitted as three separate patent applications, all filed on Feb. 15, 1923. The first to be awarded (Patent No. 1,625,043) was for a magneto. It was awarded on April 19, 1927.

The second application (Patent No. 1,648,737), which was for crank case parts, was awarded Nov. 8, 1927, and the third (Patent No. 1,803,120) – for a lubrication system – was awarded on April 28, 1931.


photo by: Jim White

The embossed 3hp engine’s inverted “U” in the high base and the gas line.

All three patents were issued to Harold E. McCray. The only reference I have ever been able to find concerning McCray was in the 1984 book John Deere’s Company by Wayne G. Broehl Jr.

Several features unique to the embossed Model E

Through inquiries made to other collectors, I have concluded that more than 50 3hp embossed Model E engines were produced. There are several major differences between the 3hp embossed Model E and the regular 3hp Model E. The most obvious is, of course, the embossed block. In the embossed engine, the magneto is a Splitdorf JR 30. The ignitor does not have a “cap” over the end of the moveable electrode.


photo by: Jim White

The embossed engine’s original Splitdorf JR 30 magneto is shown here.

On the embossed engine, the needle valve has a round knob, the muffler is shorter, and the engine has a high base with the inverted U for the fuel line. It has a small speed control knob, the hopper drain plug is 1-inch pipe thread, the oil drain is located behind the governor box and studs are used on the main bearings and ignitor.

In the embossed engine, the water hopper’s boss is cast for an oiler, but is not machined. There is no lettering on the side of the flywheel. There is a removable hand crank, and slots on two flywheel spokes accept the hand crank. The oil pan has only a gas filler hole. The one-piece gas tank has a base front connection for check valve and gas line.


photo by: Jim White

This photo shows the embossed 3hp engine’s crank handle engaged on the flywheel (and yes, the author has started the engine with this crank).

There is no drain plug in the gas tank on the embossed engine. There are rivet-style pins in the rocker arm and igniter trip. The back surface of the engine head is smooth. The connecting rod is split at the wrist pin and adjustable with shims. There is a large brass tag on the back of the base, and the spark is stamped on the flywheel surface. FC

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

Published on Apr 5, 2021

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