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HISTORY OF WOOD, TABER & MORSE STEAM ENGINE WORKS EATON, MADISON CO., NEW YORK

Author Photo
By Ken Morse

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P.O. Box 163, South Otselic, New York 13155

The company of Wood, Taber & Morse developed from a company
founded in 1848 that made machinery for woolen and cotton
mills.

In 1852 they began making steam engines. They were the third in
the U.S. to do so. The two previous were Hoard & Co.,
Watertown, New York, and Blandy & Co. of Ohio. The early
engines were sold nearby as farm power and threshing engines. In a
town of 475 inhabitants, from 40 to 50 men were employed here. In
the fall of 1860 petroleum was discovered in western Pennsylvania
and this afforded an excellent opportunity for these engines. Many
of them were sold to pump the oil from the wells.

At this time they were making stationary as well as portable
engines in various sizes up to 35 HP. The portable engines were
ideal for threshing and were sold throughout the west for that
purpose. These engines were equipped to burn either wood, coal, or
straw for the threshing engines. By 1876 they had been sold in
every state and territory of the U.S. At this time the company had
an office in Chicago to accommodate is patrons.

Many of these engines were also sold in the south, where they
were used on sawmills and cotton gins. The records also show one
engine sold to a mining company in Peru, South America.

Until 1868 the company had to ship out all of its engines on the
old Chenango Canal. In 1868 the Midland Railroad was brought
through the town, enabling them much better shipping methods.

Soon after 1880 Wood, Taber and Morse began developing a four
wheel drive traction engine. The only existing example is in the
Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, Michigan. This was the first practical
four wheel drive steam traction engine.

From the Madison Observer, January 12, 1885:

‘Wood, Taber and Morse recently tested their new four-driver
steam traction engine. It was run through the streets and up the
hill with great ease and little noise.’

From The Toronto Globe, August 25, 1885:

‘The four-driver steam engine of Wood, Taber and Morse was
exhibited at the annual Industrial Exposition of Canada in Toronto
and was well accepted by people of the Dominion, 45,000 of whom
were on the grounds Wednesday. The machine also was exhibited at
the Provincial Show at London, where it was awarded the Gold Medal.
Although the four-driver has been on the market only a month, 19
orders have been received at the factory.’

The story is told of a demonstration of the four-driver engine.
It was hitched to a road grader working on a gravel road. The
grader was made by a competing company and had a company man at the
controls. Hehad made his brag that when he came to a cross road he
would stall the steam engine. As they came to a cross road with a
packed gravel surface, he lowered the blade. As he did the governor
opened up and it pulled the grader in two pieces.

According to testimonials these machines ran for years without
any problems.

Published on Jan 1, 1991

Farm Collector Magazine

Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment