McLaughlin Manufacturing of Berkeley, California

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

| May/June 2002

  • 60 HP McLaughlin steam traction engine
    A 60 HP McLaughlin steam traction engine pulling what appears to be a road grader, circa 1905.
  • Judging by the coke cars this Mclaughlin is pulling, it's probably safe to assume it was employed in the mining industry.
    Written in light pencil on the mat backing of this photo are the words "out chain." Note the large selection of chains in the lower left of the photo) Judging by the coke cars this Mclaughlin is pulling, it's probably safe to assume it was employed in the mining industry.
  • Blueprint of a McLaughlin steam traction engine
    Among the fantastic photos Ed McLaughlin sent for this issue's story on the McLaughlin Manufacturing Co. was this blueprint of a McLaughlin steam traction engine as drawn by company founder Dennis W. McLaughlin. No date appears on the blueprint, but it is presumed to date from sometime around 1902 as we can find no mention of the company prior to that time.
  • This type of work appears to be what McLaughlin tractors did best, as few surviving photos show them working the land
     "Lumber Halling (sic) in the Sierras." This type of work appears to be what McLaughlin tractors did best, as few surviving photos show them working the land. Note the headlamp fashioned over the front wheel.
  • A transformer in transit, although possibly at a different location
    A transformer in transit, although possibly at a different location.
  • At bottom contains the notation, ''transformer, weight 12-tons.''
    At bottom contains the notation, ''transformer, weight 12-tons.''
  • An advertisement from the Nov. 14, 1903 edition of Mining and Scientific Press.
    An advertisement from the Nov. 14, 1903 edition of Mining and Scientific Press.
  • Copy of Dennis W. McLaughlin's 1903 patent for a ''steering wheel for traction engines.''
    Copy of Dennis W. McLaughlin's 1903 patent for a ''steering wheel for traction engines.''
  • The cover from a McLaughlin product catalog thought to date from around the 1906 to 1907 period
    The cover from a McLaughlin product catalog thought to date from around the 1906 to 1907 period. After the disastrous San Francisco earthquake of 1906, McLaughlin, who had been based in San Francisco, moved his operations across the bay to Berkeley.
  • McLaughlin tractor in the field pulling 40 plows cutting 33 feet wide
    A McLaughlin tractor in the field pulling 40 plows cutting 33 feet wide. The catalog claimed a cost of 22 cents an acre with this arrangement.
  • Ed McLaughlin, grandson of tractor manufacturer Dennis McLaughlin, poses with the only known surviving McLaughlin in McArthur, Calif.
    Ed McLaughlin, grandson of tractor manufacturer Dennis McLaughlin, poses with the only known surviving McLaughlin in McArthur, Calif.
  • McLaughlin tractor engaged in lumber hauling and loading
    From the McLaughlin catalog, a McLaughlin tractor engaged in lumber hauling and loading.
  • A photo from the McLaughlin catalog showing mechanical details of a McLaughlin tractor
    A photo from the McLaughlin catalog showing mechanical details of a McLaughlin tractor. Unfortunately, no specifications are given.

  • 60 HP McLaughlin steam traction engine
  • Judging by the coke cars this Mclaughlin is pulling, it's probably safe to assume it was employed in the mining industry.
  • Blueprint of a McLaughlin steam traction engine
  • This type of work appears to be what McLaughlin tractors did best, as few surviving photos show them working the land
  • A transformer in transit, although possibly at a different location
  • At bottom contains the notation, ''transformer, weight 12-tons.''
  • An advertisement from the Nov. 14, 1903 edition of Mining and Scientific Press.
  • Copy of Dennis W. McLaughlin's 1903 patent for a ''steering wheel for traction engines.''
  • The cover from a McLaughlin product catalog thought to date from around the 1906 to 1907 period
  • McLaughlin tractor in the field pulling 40 plows cutting 33 feet wide
  • Ed McLaughlin, grandson of tractor manufacturer Dennis McLaughlin, poses with the only known surviving McLaughlin in McArthur, Calif.
  • McLaughlin tractor engaged in lumber hauling and loading
  • A photo from the McLaughlin catalog showing mechanical details of a McLaughlin tractor

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.