Vice-President & Chief Engineer The Cooper-Bessemer Company Mount Vernon, Ohio
As I am one of the many who 'grew up' on the steam traction engine I have continued throughout the years to maintain an intense interest in them. No one without that association could ever appreciate the romance that goes with the association with that type of machinery. My experience was largely with the Reeves and the Baker. Because of that experience I have for some time been a regular subscriber to the IRON-MEN ALBUM, and I look forward to seeing it with just as much interest as I do the technical journals in my present-day field.
As a matter of explanation, I am now and have for some time been Chief Engineer of The Cooper-Bessemer Corporation, present-day builders of large diesel and natural gas engines. This company is very old, dating back to 1833 and was until 1929 known as the C & G Cooper Co. Under the name of Cooper they built approximately 2,000 steam traction engines, beginning in 1875 and ending around 1895. As near as I can determine they may have been the first American builder to produce such an engine, although the records are none too clear.
As is the case so often with old companies, they did not realize they were making history and there was no systematic set-up by which records were very well kept. We have many old bulletins which are priceless reading and which do show some of the progress in development. We also have many old patents involving traction and steering gear.
One of the interesting phases of this development is that up to and including the bulletin of 1882 they still stoutly maintain that the engine should be steered by horses. In the bulletin of 1883 both self-steering and horse-steering were illustrated.
It might be interesting to note that a former Chief Engineer of this company, who became such in 1898 and who is now 90 years of age, is still living and is able to recall the building of the traction and the tests given them on a very steep hill here in Mount Vernon. His father was Chief Engineer at the time of the building of the engines. It is further interesting that one so-called Test Engineer on these units is still living and is able to recall many interesting incidents.
We have been interested in resurrecting some of the history of the machinery built here including the traction engine. As indicated above, the recorded information is relatively meager. We thought it would be quite appropriate if we could find and purchase an old Cooper, return it to the plant, recondition it and keep it in our museum. In spite of all of our efforts, including advertising, we have been able to locate just one which is being reconditioned by an individual and as such is not for sale. Perhaps some of the readers of the IRON-MEN ALBUM might be able to tell us more of the history of these engines and perhaps even tell us of the location of any existing engines.