McLaughlin Manufacturing of Berkeley, California

The McLaughling Manufacturing Co. made steam tractors and steam traction engines

| May/June 2002

On the back cover of the January/February 2002 issue of the Iron-Men Album, we ran a photo submitted by reader Wilbur Wimmer, Redding, Calif., of a McLaughlin Manufacturing Co. steam tractor located in McArthur, Calif. Having never seen one before, we asked readers to drop us a line should anyone have more information on that tractor. A few of you did, offering tidbits of information heard over the years. But no one, it seemed, really knew much about McLaughlin Manufacturing or their tractors. And more vexingly, no one knew of any source of surviving pictures or literature related to the company.

As is the case with so many tractor manufacturers from the early years, it seemed that any information about McLaughlin had simply disappeared, a trail of vague hints (and one surviving tractor) the only record of its existence. And then I received an e-mail from Ed McLaughlin, grandson of McLaughlin tractor manufacturer Dennis W. McLaughlin.

Ed does not follow the steam hobby, and in fact his only previous connection to steam was through his grandfather. But some years ago Ed made contact with IMA reader Jack Alexander, Gilroy, Calif., and in the process Jack learned of Ed's connection to McLaughlin tractors. Through Jack, Ed became aware of the McLaughlin tractor in McArthur, Calif., and when IMA ran the photo of the McArthur McLaughlin, Jack alerted Ed to the fact.

At that point Ed contacted me wondering what, if anything, might have come out of running the photo of the McLaughlin, as he's actively seeking information related to his grandfather's company. I had learned little Ed didn't already know, but Ed, it turned out, had a veritable treasure-trove of photographs and literature related to McLaughlin tractors.

And that brings us to the present time, and the ability to present at least a rough sketch of the McLaughlin tractor and the man behind it.

Dennis W. McLaughlin

The eighth of 12 children, Dennis W. McLaughlin was born in Ireland on Sept. 28, 1858. In 1869 his mother, Margaret McLaughlin, died, and Dennis' father, Andrew Peter McLaughlin, decided the family's best fortunes could be realized in America. Sometime around 1870 the family immigrated to the U.S., briefly taking up residence in Chicago with Andrew's brother, Frederic, before setting off by train to San Francisco, riding the Union Pacific's transcontinental route in its first year of operation in 1871.