6260 Main Street, East Petersburg, PA 17520
The following is a transcript of an interview with took place on December 13, 1958.
On the first Monday after Easter in the year 1892, Mr. Hess began his employment with the Geiser Company of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, as a thresher shop helper at the age of fifteen.
Mr. Hess took up the building of threshers designed by Mr. F.F. (Frank) Landis, and worked all through the Geiser thresher shop including testing in the field until June 1, 1896.
Immediately after the termination of his employment with the Geiser concern, Mr. Hess started to work for the Frick Company, also of Waynesboro. He continued there for one year at which time their Frick 'Landis' thresher was taken out of production because of litigation between Geiser and Frick concerns. During this period when the Frick Company was temporarily out of thresher production, Mr. A.E. Price approached Mr. Hess to come back to work for Geiser Company, which he did.
Mr. Hess' father learned his trade from Frank and Abe Landis, steam engine builders of the 'Best Engine' built in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. After the Philadelphia Centennial in 1876, Mr. Peter Geiser induced Mr. F.R. Landis to come to Waynesboro to work for Geiser.
Mr. Landis designed steam engines and threshers for Geiser. Among the machines designed by Mr. Landis was the once popular Landis type 'Peerless' steam traction engine. Mr. Landis did not receive a salary from Geiser but was under contract to receive $2.00 per horsepower per engine and $1.50 per $100.00 of selling price per thresher. Therefore a Class 'E' thresher selling for $600.00 yielded Mr. Landis $9.00 royalty.
In the year 1892 Mr. F.F. Landis resigned from the Geiser Company. In 1894 Mr. Landis joined the Frick Company as a thresher designer. This same Mr. Landis served as the guardian of Mr. A.M. Hess. Mr. Hess suggested the idea of lateral moving rolls and this feature was designed into the grain cleaning system of the Frick Landis Thresher.
During Mr. Hess's career with the Geiser Company he crossed the Atlantic ten times. One trip was to investigate the death of a Mr. Francis Dalton who had been killed by an engine in Fodia, Italy. The investigation disclosed that the steam outfit, a new Z-l Peerless with six-gang plow, had been steamed up and run along the curb where Mr. Dalton wished to park it for the night. It was a nice outfit with jacketed boiler and Mr. Dalton had filled the boiler, planning to move it next morning when officers requested him to move it immediately. He complied with their request but the engine was on dead center and as he pulled the band wheel the engine started suddenly, causing Mr. Dalton to be thrown off balance and in contact with the drive wheel where he was crushed between the wheel and the engine water tank because of the reverse motion of the machine.
The last trip to Europe made by Mr. & Mrs. Hess in May 1912, which was two weeks after the sinking of the Titanic and the sighting of icebergs, caused concern on the part of Mrs. Hess and other passengers. The ship's captain reassured the passengers that they would not hit any of the icebergs.
This trip lasted two years and took the Hess's into Turkey, Italy, Romania, France and Spain. During this time Mr. Hess arranged to receive, erect and run 200 steam engines and 200 threshers, all of which were shipped, knocked down or boxed. The engines included some Landis Traction Class 'T' and 'Q' engines, some portables and some Anderson Tractions. Incidentally a 'Q' engine was customarily sold with a Class 'E' 24' x 38' thresher. The Hess's returned to this country about May 1, 1914.
The original Geiser Company was sold to the Emerson Brantingham Company on August 1, 1912. Therefore, Mr. Hess went to Europe as an employee of the Geiser Company and came back as an employee of the E-B concern. During the years with the Geiser and E-B Companies, Mr. Hess broke in and trained many individuals in the selling and servicing of Geiser products. One of these men was Mr. W.G. Runkle of Trenton, New Jersey.
The first 50 HP Landis type E-B engines were built about 1912. Emerson Brantingham engineers tried to abolish the Geiser styles and built an experimental traction engine with a 4' piston valve which was no success (could not hold steam in it). And so, after a career of building equipment for the U.S. Government and Army, the Emerson Brantingham concern failed.
The old Geiser plant was revived in 1928 by interested parties and former stock holders. In its brief career, this reorganized firm built some traction engines and threshers, but failed in its attempt to successfully produce ice machinery and a revolutionary Landis design centrifugal thresher. So after about two years of operation, the plant ceased production and some years later was completely sold out.
Mr. Hess did not continue with the Emerson Brantingham Company after his return to this country. On May 1, 1914, he started again with the Frick Company and continued with them until the first Friday in August 1957. During this time he designed and refined the Frick Steel Thresher.