The 12th installment of Dr. Bixler's history of the Aultman & Taylor Company, as edited by Dr. Robert T. Rhode, appears in this issue of the Iron-Men Album, which is serializing Dr. Bixler's book. Dr. Bixler, a professor at Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio, passed away before he could publish the manuscript to which he had devoted considerable energy. Several manuscripts belonging to Dr. Bixler are in the Sherman Room of the Mansfield/Richland County Public Library in Mansfield, Ohio. This installment presents detailed factual data, supplying a vital resource for researchers.
At a meeting of the board of directors of the Aultman & Taylor Machinery Company held on Nov. 8, 1904, G.W. Gans presented a report on a double-cylinder engine patented and built by the Improved Engine Company, which was located at Myersdale, Pa. It was his recommendation that Aultman & Taylor acquire the exclusive right to manufacture that engine or in some way secure control of it. At that meeting the president was empowered to appoint a committee to visit the plant of the Improved Engine Company for the purpose of investigating the double-cylinder engine and to ascertain the conditions by which the Aultman & Taylor Machinery Company might acquire control of the patents on that engine.
The president appointed a committee consisting of the following members: E.W. Gans sic, A. Kalmerten, and G.W. Seaman. As instructed, the committee visited the company in Myersdale, carefully examined the engine, and at the December meeting of the board of directors reported favorably on the merits of the engine. However, their mission to Myersdale failed because of the unreasonable royalty demands made by the parties that controlled the patents. Their report was followed by a lengthy discussion, after which it was decided to design and build Aultman & Taylor's own double-cylinder engine.
Accordingly Mr. Seaman, who was a draftsman and for a few years the superintendent of the plant, at once began work on designing the bid engine. That engine was built at the Diamond Street plant in Mansfield, and, while the exact date of its completion is unknown, it probably was constructed near the end of 1906 or the beginning of 1907.1
In any case the first publicity about the engine in a newspaper, including a picture of the engine, occurred on March 14, 1907. The engine was rated at 45 HP, with the maximum indicated horsepower 171 and a maximum economic horsepower of 120. The Aultman & Taylor Machinery Company was one of the first to design and assemble a large traction engine.
The building of that engine came as a result of a market for an engine larger and more powerful than were the traction engines in use at that time. The demand for larger engines came primarily from the Western states, Mexico, and Canada.
It was a double-cylinder engine mounted on top of the boiler. The dimensions of the cylinders were 10 inches by 19 inches. It was rated as a 45 HP engine, but, in the tests to which it was subjected, it developed 111 to 120 HP. The drive wheels were 7 feet in diameter with a face of 42 inches. The supply tanks had a capacity of 800 gallons of water, and the coal-bunkers carried 1,500 pounds of coal. It was fitted with a new, patented steering device. With a simple turn of the wheel the engineer could steer the engine in any direction. The boiler was 42 inches in diameter, and the height of the engine was 15 feet. A picture was taken with a man standing beside it which gives one an impression of the immensity of the engine; the man appears to be the size of a small boy.
The engine was given a series of thorough and rigid tests in the shops and on the road. The tests proved that it could be used economically, and the road tests demonstrated that it was an excellent road engine. It was capable of traveling at the rate of 2-4/10 miles per hour. One of the tests was of considerable interest and demonstrated its great power. The men in charge attached to the drawbar of the engine two traction engines, a 20 and a 25 HP, well loaded with coal and water. It pulled that load of two dead engines up Franklin Avenue Hill, located north of the factory, and Park Avenue East, and then it returned to the factory. That test, or feat, was performed with the greatest ease. The assertion was made that it had the power to plow up Main Street with gang-plows almost the entire width of the street.
The engine burned coal, wood, or straw. Because of this feature it was well adapted to the needs of the Western grain-growing states. Then, too, the company believed that there would be a demand for such an engine in the Canadian Northwest. In spite of the demand on the part of the great ranch owners it was ignored for a number of years. Finally, the evermore-insistent demand convinced the officials of the Aultman & Taylor Machinery Company of the need of building an experimental engine of the type already described.
Still another use for that engine that the builders envisioned was in connection with the Mexican mines. Since that engine was a good hill climber, it was surmised that it could haul the ore as rapidly as a mule team and at considerably less expense.2
The giant engine was used for various kinds of work around the factory and yards until 1909. It was found to be as serviceable as were the smaller engines. Even though there was a demand for this kind of engine, yet the company was unable to sell that engine as soon as it was built. However, in April of 1909 it was shipped to Faulkton, Faulk County, S.D., in the heart of the wheat fields. Several of the men who were spectators when it was loaded for shipment testify that, because of its weight, two flat-cars were required to transport it.3
So far as the author has been able to ascertain, there is no one living today in Mansfield or its environs who was privileged to see that engine. Those who witnessed its performance in the yards of the company and in the city of Mansfield are all gone. Only a few men are living today who saw that engine or had any experience with it. They are elderly men in Faulkton or in that vicinity. They are in the unique position of being able to share with others their impressions of the big engine.
Ray Church of Faulkton remembers that engine when it came in April of 1909. He was 14 years of age. The engine was bought by Fred E. Udell, who lived on a farm nine miles south of Faulkton. That farm was later owned by Church and is now in the possession of Church's son, Richard. The big engine became known in that area as the 'Udell Engine.'
Udell owned three quarter sections of land. In addition to doing his own work he also did a large amount of work for other farmers. The engine was used for plowing and broke many acres of prairie ground. It could pull 14 plows, and Church often operated the plows. He also hauled water for that engine and recalls one especially busy day when he hauled nine tanks (15 barrels to the tank) of water for it. One tank of water was usually required to make a round for breaking ground.
Electus Pritchard ran that engine for Udell for several years and was paid $5 per day. During the threshing season those men pulled a 40-inch separator with that engine and could thresh 5,000 bushels of oats per day.
Peter Baughs states that, in the fall of the year, they added an extension of two plows, making altogether 16 plows, which that engine pulled covering almost 20 feet of ground in one swath. Mr. Baugh's brother, John, was the plow tender and was paid $1.75 per day. That outfit broke 45 to 50 acres of sod per day. It should be remembered that those were 14-hour days.
During 1910 the engineer was Henry Struever. The men threshed so late in the fall that they were caught in a snowstorm and were unable to finish the threshing. The farmer, Dan Cooper, had to stack his grain, which was threshed the next spring.
Faulkton had its own light plant, and on one occasion the gas engine that powered the plant broke down. It could not be replaced immediately, so the Faulkton town officials rented the big engine and belted it to the generator. A house was built to cover the engine, and the engineer, Buttler Lambert, ran it each night and furnished light for the community.
After using the engine for five years, it was sold to William and Fred Olsen, who lived about a mile south of Faulkton. The engine was known widely for its power and operated the largest threshing machines. It did not lose power until the steam pressure was down to 40 pounds. When that engine got stuck, it was really a stuck engine, and it was quite an operation to get it going again.
The men who ran it used coal for fuel when plowing, and, when the engine pulled a threshing machine, flax was often used for fuel. The engine was last run during the early 1920s and in 1936 was sold for scrap iron.4
As stated earlier, that engine was built as an experiment. Why didn't the company put that type of engine into production? No firm answer can be given to that question. The cost of building that engine must have been considerable, and perhaps the company decided that there could be little or no profit in that type of engine. It may well be that they had some misgivings about the engine. There is a clue, and it is only a clue. In several of the company's catalogs statements were made that pointed out the advantages of the side-mounted single-cylinder engine as contrasted with the double-cylinder engine, and those statements were made on the basis of the company's many years of experience with both types of engines.
Whatever the reasons may have been, it was the only engine of that type that the company ever built. The history of the giant engine has been something of a mystery to those who have learned of its existence by way of the grapevine but never have had access to authentic information. Consequently, in the preceding pages an attempt has been made to present reliable information pertaining to the big engine, so that it may be to the reader more than a mere legend.
On Aug. 15, 1932, Joe Rynda had his 10 HP Eureka engine steamed up, when he was approached by a tall, elderly man, who remarked, 'Fifty years ago today (Aug. 15, 1882) I was married in St. Scholatica church at Heidelberg, Minn. When we came out of the church, this engine was coming up the hill from the north, having been unloaded at Prague. It was driven by the owners, the Prochaska brothers, to their farm home in Montgomery Township, LeSueur County. That engine was used for threshing in Montgomery, Lexington, and Lanesburg Townships.'
It had wooden wheels and was probably built in 1877. Around 1894 that engine was sold to the Wondra brothers, who used it for threshing and sawing lumber. In 1900 it was traded for a 16 HP Gaar-Scott return-flue engine. During the next four years the Eureka stood on Main Street near the railroad tracks in Montgomery. It was then sold to Albert Brabec Rynda's uncle.
One day it was decided to take the engine home. The boiler was filled with water, and steam was raised. Rynda's father was unable to start the engine; it would not turn over. The engineer who had operated the engine did not open the cylinder cocks, and the piston was rusted to the cylinder. After removing the cylinder head they used cordwood and a sledge to drive the piston into the cylinder. Then the engine would turn. Brabec was a competent mechanic and placed the engine in good shape. He used it until 1925 for driving a two-roll Rosenthall corn husker.
In 1909, Rynda was a 17-year-old boy, 6 feet tall but not very wide, so he was able to get through the small firebox door to roll in new flues. While rolling flues he told his Uncle Brabec that, if he ever wanted to sell that engine, he would like to have it. In the spring of 1925 Brabec pulled that engine to Rynda's home and said, 'I pulled that engine in the hog lot, and you can have it.'
10 HP wooden-wheeled Eureka restored by 'Steam Engine Joe' Rynda, posing by engine on his 75th birthday, Feb. 12, 1967; photo courtesy of Joe Rynda.
During the years of 1931 and 1932 Rynda became quite ill, forcing him to live on milk and crackers. He concluded that he did not have long to live and began looking for a home for the Eureka. He wrote to the Ford Museum, but they would not take the engine until they had its complete history. They offered to buy the engine, but Joe would not sell it. Instead, he gave it to them with the stipulation that, should the museum ever move out of the United States or be closed, then the engine was to revert to the living descendants of Rynda.
One summer day a trailer that was used to transport cars came to the Rynda farm. The engine was loaded and hauled to Duluth, where it was placed on a boat and shipped to the Ford Museum in Detroit. Today that engine with its wooden wheels stands on the floor at the Ford Museum where thousands of curious people admire it. Just before that engine was moved, Leonard L. Rynda, son of Joe, used a center punch to cut his name on the crosshead slides, and there it is for all to see.
From 1934 until 1951 Joe Rynda did not have a Eureka engine in his yard but kept looking for one. Then in the early summer of 1951 the state inspector informed him of one that was on the Grundsteen estate near Harris, Minn. That was in the wild country of Minnesota. Joe found the engine among the trees that had grown around it. A 5-inch elm had grown around the cylinder, so he literally had to chop the engine out. The top of the governor and the Stephenson link were gone, and the smokestack was lying down. The serial numbers of the governors of those two engines differed only by six digits. Upon closer examination it was discovered that the two engines were identical, which suggests that they were probably built during the same year.
There were six children in the Grundsteen family, and they decided that Rynda should have the engine, for which each of them was to receive $20. So Joe paid $120 for the engine. Some of the parts, such as a bull gear and a pinion, were buried in the ground under a woodpile. That was done to avoid the ravages of the World War II scrap drive. The old wood on the wheels was scarcely able to support the engine while it was loaded on a truck, so it was necessary to have all of the wooden parts of the wheels replaced. Those parts of the wheels were made in a wood shop at Prague, Minn., the cost of which was $800. It was a great satisfaction for Rynda to discover that the boiler was like a new one. After a considerable amount of work the engine was completely restored, and then Rynda exhibited the engine at shows and ran it in parades whenever such opportunities arose. Not only did he bring pleasure to himself, but also he brought enjoyment to untold numbers by the restoration of the two old and rare Aultman & Taylor Eureka engines.5
Rynda was a pioneer in the collecting of all kinds of steam engines. At his death he was credited with having the largest collection of steam traction engines in the nation. He was a competent operator of steam traction engines, enjoyed working with them, and experienced many hours of pleasure exhibiting them at community events and steam shows. Rynda was widely and affectionately known as 'Steam Engine Joe Rynda.' He died on Feb. 17, 1972, at the age of 79. Burial was at Montgomery, Minn., where he resided during most of his life.6
Galland's first delivery was one of Aultman & Taylor's traction engines nicknamed 'The Grasshopper.' Those engines were built with the rear axle in front of the firebox. Occasionally, when one of them ascended a hill, the front of the engine would rear up or hop, from which it acquired its nickname. Galland delivered the engine at Hixton, Minn., in 1899. It was the first traction engine ever delivered in that town, and it turned out to be a great event for the inhabitants of that community. People living there and for miles around witnessed the unloading of the engine from a flatcar. A few of the more adventurous climbed on top of the separator and rode out of town.
Later that year Qalland delivered the first 12 HP Eureka in that area. At that time it was considered to be quite large and almost in the same class with a locomotive.7
William Koppes was employed by the Champion Thresher Company, located at Orville, Ohio. It was there that he designed and built the first Champion separator, with which he threshed using horsepower. After that company closed out its business, Koppes went to Mansfield, where he was employed as a designer by the Aultman & Taylor Machinery Company. In 1921 he designed and built a half-scale separator. Upon its completion he showed it to Walter L. Blakely.
The sole purpose of that machine was to meet the demand of farmers in the hilly country of southeastern Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. The Frick and Geiser companies had already placed small separators on the market, and so an additional purpose for building the machine was to compete with those companies.
The two companies mentioned did not use screens or riddles. The Aultman & Taylor people took the position that it was impossible to clean foreign materials from grain without the use of riddles and screens. Since Aultman & Taylor separators were fitted with screens, this became one of the strong points in their favor.
This unusual separator is known only to a relatively small number of persons, and even a smaller number have been privileged to see the machine. The author was fortunate, in that he made a careful examination of the separator. It is now in the possession of Ervin Martin, a nephew of Koppes, and stands on the barn floor on Martin's farm. To Blakely, whose knowledge of this machine surpasses that of any living person, the author is deeply indebted for his comprehensive explanation of every aspect of the little separator.
Its cylinder is 12 inches in width, and the length of the separator from the end of the feed board to the back of the machine is 10 feet. A glance at the little separator shows that the blower drum is on the left side of the machine. The designer placed it there to shorten the length of the machine, so as to make it more adaptable to barn threshing. An additional reason for its location was so that grain could be threshed out of the mow and the straw blown into the opposite mow or barn floor. Moreover, its location facilitated the pitching of the bundles of grain from near the center of the mow.
Opposite the blower drum is located a 1- or 2-inch air tube. The wind from the fan blows the chaff toward the blower drum. The practicality of this device would immediately impress a professional thresherman, when one considers certain conditions with which threshermen were often annoyed. When threshing was done in the field, there were occasionally soggy bundles, filled with mud. When a mass of that kind of material went through a threshing machine, it would frequently lodge in the blower boot and would not slide down to the blower fan. When that occurred, and if it were not caught within a few seconds, the entire machine would be full of straw rendering it inoperative.
The manner in which Koppes designed that machine would have to a large extent alleviated the problem just described. There is every reason to believe that, if the half-scale separator had been placed into production, it would have been a success, since it was such a practical idea that would have had a great appeal to professional thresher-men.
Following the liquidation of the Aultman & Taylor Machinery Company, all of their patterns, models, etc., were destroyed by the Advance-Rumely Company, which had purchased them. Soon after the destruction of those materials Blakely journeyed to Mansfield and went back to the old boiler shop, where he had gone on many previous occasions. It was dark in the old shop, but with the aid of a glimmer of light emanating from the open door he found the little separator. For some reason it had escaped destruction.
Blakely hastened to the Koppes home, met Koppes on the street, and informed him of his discovery. Thereupon he suggested that the two of them go down to the shop and see the machine. After looking at the separator for a moment Koppes remarked, 'By God, that's mine!' He was greatly surprised that it was still there.
Immediately Koppes went to a phone and called one of his neighbors, an elderly man who had a Ford truck with a worm drive on the rear axle. The three men loaded that little separator onto the old truck and with all the speed of which it was capable transported their precious cargo to the Koppes home. After it was unloaded, it suddenly dawned upon Blakely that he had helped to steal a separator; then realizing the gravity of the situation he decided it was high time for him to make tracks. So he removed himself from that scene with due haste.
Without doubt it was a stroke of luck that Blakely discovered the little separator. Had it not been for his foresight, that little separator would in all likelihood have been destroyed. A few years later the two men met at the Ohio State Fair, and Koppes stated that, five years after he built that separator, the Huber Company decided to build a prototype of a separator. They employed Koppes, and he took the model separator with him to the Huber plant. It was at that plant that Blakely last saw the little separator.
Following the death of Koppes all trace of the machine was lost. Blakely searched for 10 years before he located it. Martin informed the author that Mr. Miller, who was associated with the Huber Company, was instrumental in placing the little separator into his possession. As already mentioned, the separator now is on Martin's farm near Smithville, Ohio. Martin has displayed this unique and remarkable machine at the Dover and Mansfield, Ohio, shows. Through the generosity of Martin large numbers of people have had the privilege of enjoying this machine. That separator was never placed into production, since it was soon after its completion that the company was liquidated.8 It is illustrative of the genius of many of the designers who created improvements on threshing machines, making them gradually more efficient .
The burial of Koppes was at the Medina, Ohio, cemetery on May 26, 1936.
1. Record Book, minutes of the meetings of the stockholders and
directors of the Aultman & Taylor Machinery Company.
2. Mansfield Weekly News, March 14, 1907.
3. Mansfield Weekly News, April 29, 1909.
4. Letters and correspondence with Robert Deinslake, president of Faulkton Community Club; Ray Church, Owen Roberts, Earnest Llob, all residents of Faulkton, S.D., and Peter Bauks, resident of Ethan, S.D.
5. Information taken from letters written by Joe Rynda to the author and unpublished manuscripts written by him.
6. Hayes, John. 'The Golden Roll.' Iron-Men Album magazine (May/June 1971). 31.
7. The Rooster, 1920. 2-3.
8. Interviews with Walter Blakely and Ervin Martin.