Pioneering Steam

The A.D. Baker Co. Got into the Steam Game Late, but its Contributions Changed the Rules


| September/October 2003



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When Abner D. Baker entered the steam traction business in 1901, he entered an industry with history and a long line of innovations. The greats of the age of steaming (Case, C. Aultman, Geiser and Russell, to name but a few) were established names with a steady clientele for their products.

In 1901, steam was still king, and advances in steam technology had reaped benefits employed by engine builders around the country. Compound cylinders, improved traction differential gear designs and general improvements in metallurgy meant better, faster and more powerful steam traction engines for plowing and threshing duties. Baker, who supposedly never received more than a standard education, obviously had an engineer's mind, and his innovations in steam had lasting impact.

While in his early 20s, Baker left his family's farm outside of Swanton, Ohio, traveling to Akron, Ohio, then Erie, Pa., and finally Detroit, Mich., working as a machinist for other companies. He eventually returned to his Ohio roots, setting up his own shop where he worked on agricultural equipment. At some point in all this he became interested in steam and steam traction engines, building, according to at least one source, five traction engines for clients. The formation of the A.D. Baker Co., Swanton, Ohio, was the final culmination of his interests.

Take a Peek At These Every Thresher-man Should Know About Them

The Improved Baker Uniflow.A 1918 ad for the Baker Uniflow cylinder. Facing page: A 1919 ad for the Baker Superheater.

By means of valve shown in the cut, we produce an engine of low compression and late release, regardless of point of cut-off, which enables us to get more expansive force out of the steam, resulting in great economy in fuel and water consumption.

Smoke box door on a Baker photographed by charles Harthy at the Darke County Steam Threshers show in Greenville, Ohio. July 1987.