Gaar, Scott and Co.
Abram Gaar was born on his family’s farm in
Wayne County near Richmond, Ind., on Nov. 14, 1819. In his early
years, he worked as a pattern maker, a cabinet maker, and a
millwright, but in the late 1830s and early 1840s he attached
himself to academic pursuits.
During this same period, Abram’s father, Jonas, helped establish
Wayne County’s first steam-powered venture, a foundry and machine
shop. About 1842, Abram returned to his mechanical inclination when
he gained employment at the machine works known as the Spring
Foundry owned by Jesse M. and John H. Hutton.
In 1849, Abram, along with his father, his brother, John Milton
Gaar, and his brother-in-law, William G. Scott, purchased the
Spring Foundry, which was then reorganized under the name of A.
Gaar & Co. John Milton Gaar was born in Richmond in 1823, and
worked in the Spring Foundry as early as 1842, when that concern
was engaged in building the old “chaff pilers” or “ground-hog”
A. Gaar & Co. moved into the manufacture of various
agricultural implements, threshers, and portable steam engines, and
in 1870, A. Gaar & Co. incorporated as Gaar, Scott & Co.
Abram, who was active in the company until his death in 1894, was
succeeded by his brother, John Milton Gaar, who had grown up with
the threshing machine business and had developed the plant as the
industry developed. William C. Scott was a Virginian whose parents
had moved to Richmond in 1827. Scott was the businessman of the
firm, and John M. Gaar devoted his time to the mechanical end.
Gaar, Scott &
Gaar, Scott & Co. began manufacturing portable steam engines
in the mid-1850s, with steam traction engines joining the line
about 1884. Gaar-Scott made steam engines with simple and compound
The compound engine’s two cylinders were directly and strongly
attached to each other by a projection on the small cylinder and a
counter bore on the large cylinder, with no open space between
them. This ensured the cylinders were in perfect alignment, and in
this position they were bolted rigidly together. If for any reason
access was desired to the inside of the cylinders, the small
cylinder could be easily removed and then replaced in its original
position, and it would again be in perfect alignment with the large
cylinder, with the connection as firm as if both cylinders were
Gaar-Scott’s design meant there was no stuffing box to pack
between the cylinders and only one steam joint, which was an
obvious advantage over compound cylinders with an open space
In the compound cylinder, Gaar-Scott used a brass bushing
between the two cylinders, which took the place of packing around
the piston rod. Five grooves in the cross section of the bushing
filled with water supplied by the condensation of occasional drops
forming on the piston rod as it passed through this bushing, which
was cooler than the other chambers of the cylinder. This made for a
durable and effective steam packing that was simple and easy to
replace. A plate and three bolts held the bushing in position, and
three setscrews also held the center head in position.
A small steam pipe, with a valve, was installed on the boiler to
carry the steam directly to the large cylinder so that, in an
emergency or hard pull, the engineer could turn on steam and get
the full, direct pressure of steam in the large cylinder for a
limited time, supplementing the exhaust steam from the small
cylinder. The cylinder was jacked in conformity with the boiler and
Gaar-Scott Co. made steam traction engines of simple and
compound cylinders, plain portable steam engines, the Gaar-Scott
three-way crank thresher, rice field Queen thresher, clover hulling
outfit, water tanks, plantation circular sawmill, pony circular
sawmills, and standard circular sawmills.
In 1911, M. Rumely Co. acquired Gaar-Scott and Advance Thresher
Co., and became the Advance-Rumely Co. Gaar-Scott engines continued
to be produced until about 1914, and were sold under the Rumely
products umbrella. In 1931, Allis-Chalmers Corp. acquired
Information for this article came from The
Encyclopedia of American Steam Traction Engines, the County
History Preservation Society, and Tom Woodard, John R. Gresh, Bill
Roberts, and Gil Roberts.
Steam enthusiast Jack C. Norbeck is a frequent
contributor to Steam Traction. Through his company,
Norbeck Research, Jack puts together library exhibits around the
world that work to educate the public on the role of steam in
agriculture and society.
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