Knowles Family’s Vintage Lennox Heirloom

Purchased by general store owners in 1906, 16hp Lennox has remained in the same family ever since

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by Kelly Barnett
This 16hp Lennox engine (serial No. 1018) has remained in the Knowles family since its purchase in 1906.

As the years pass, businesses come and go with little fanfare. Many small towns once had “hub” businesses that helped support the local area. This is a story about a treasure from one such business in the sleepy little northeast Iowa town of Manly.

When Daniel Darius Knowles and his brother, Delavan, went into partnership in a local general store nearly 120 years ago, it is safe to say that the last thing on their minds was the final disposition of a 16hp Lennox stationary gas engine they used to grind feed for customers. But this one has remained in the same family ever since.

More likely, the brothers were focusing on installation of a power source to use in grinding feed. The facts behind their decision to purchase a Lennox engine remain a mystery. With all the engine manufacturers in that era, there was no shortage of options to choose from, especially for two brothers from the upper Midwest at the turn of the last century.

Lennox used to generate cash

The order for what would become a family heirloom was processed at the Lennox Machine Co. offices October 1, 1906. The order was for a 16hp screen-cooled gasoline engine with a 28-inch pulley and galvanized cooling tank. The engine was to be used to grind feed at the Knowles’ store.

The open crank engine was covered by a two-year guarantee against any breakage caused by a flaw in material or workmanship and the company would send a man to set the engine in place for the customer. All of this would cost the two brothers a whopping $375 (roughly $11,600 today), with payment due 60 days from the invoice date.

order form for lennox gasoline engine

The Knowles’ Lennox engine was meant to be installed on a foundation or footing. A fuel pump on the side of the base brings gas up to the overflow mixer. It also has a factory clutch pulley with a release lever behind the flywheel.

The Knowles brothers owned and operated the store for about 30 years. After Daniel’s death in 1926, his family – mainly his son Wilbur and daughter Martha – operated the store, which remained in operation until the late 1950s.

As a boy, Daniel’s great-grandson Eldon Hungerford noticed the large engine sitting behind a bunch of junk in a shed by the old store. Eldon says he always thought the engine looked interesting, but its size hampered his ability to tinker with it. In 1963, he purchased the engine from Wilbur Knowles.

The engine came with related treasures found in the same shed: the original purchase order as well as 1907 receipt for 60 gallons of Perfection gasoline (for a total of $5.85) and another 40 gallons of Crown gasoline ($6.60). Eldon said he figured those purchases kept the engine fueled for store use.

close up of the overflow mixer and air intake pipe

Inside storage protected vintage engine

Eldon was proud to put this family engine at the center of his engine collection. He wasn’t sure it had gotten much use grinding feed for customers, but being housed under a roof for most of its life kept it in good condition and made it easier to restore. Eldon said it didn’t take him long to bring the engine back to life after more than 20 years of neglect. He also had no idea how it escaped the World War II scrap drives but speculated that its role at the store protected it.

This engine has been shown at shows and fairs throughout northeast Iowa since the mid-1960s. Eldon’s son, Bruce Hungerford, has owned the Lennox since 2006. Over the years, it has been painted a couple of times and normal maintenance has been done to it to keep it in running condition. A custom running gear was made to help in taking it to shows.

close up of lennox pushrod detent and fuel pump

Bruce is more than happy to talk to those interested in the history of this family treasure when it is displayed at a show. A presentation story board has been put together to tell its history. The Hungerford family is rich with history and this family heirloom is an item to be mighty proud of. FC

Kelly Barnett is the author of several engine-related articles. He has been involved with old iron for most of his life and currently serves as president of the Cedar Valley Engine Club in northeast Iowa. Write him at 1013 Hawthorne Ave., Plainfield, IA 50666; email: kpzbarnett@gmail.com.

close up of lennox choke lever and fuel mixer needle

Lennox company endures

Started in 1880, firm carved out a niche early

Lennox Machine Co. was established in 1880 by David Lennon in Marshalltown, Iowa. The company was soon busy building boilers, doing repair work and fabricating experimental designs for other companies.

Lennox engines were first marketed in about 1894. The engine line eventually ranged from 1/4hp to 30hp, with air-, hopper-, screen- and tank-cooled styles. Lennox later built a double-cylinder, hopper-cooled, opposed style engine. The company built engines into 1914, but very few exist today.

close up of lennox clutch pulley release lever

David Lennox began fabricating steel furnaces in about 1900, using the designs of two would-be inventors. Eventually, Lennox bought out their interest and later sold that portion of the company to others.

Lennox Machine Co. continued in the machine business for many years after getting out of the furnace business. Among the company’s product offering: grinders, scales, electric lighting plants, dynamos and washing machines. The company eventually evolved into the firm today known as Lennox Industries. – Farm Collector staff.

Lennox said to be economical to run

close up of lennox serial number plate

“Lennox Machine Co., Marshalltown, Iowa, writes us that one particular feature of their engine is that the electric ignitor can be cleaned while the engine is running; that they put a friction clutch on all of their engines, with the lever on the inside of the balance wheel where it cannot possibly be caught in the belt; that the total repairs of the Lennox engine for 1902 did not exceed over one-fifth of a cent per month for each engine. They also state that at present, they are working overtime to fill orders for engines, furnaces, rotary beveling and splitting shears, tapping machines and hot air, all-steel furnaces.” – The American Blacksmith, January 1904

brothers standing next to red lennox engine
Farm Collector Magazine
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