The Ingenious LANDIS BROTHERS

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Franklin Landis
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Mark H. Landis.
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The plant of the Landis Tool Company.
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Landis Engine & Manufacturing Co. shop later became the Clock factory.
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The old grist mill where F.F. Landis got his start.

The brothers Franklin Frick Landis and Abraham B. Landis,
natives of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, hold a distinguished
place in the history of engines powered by steam.

Sons of a farm family, orphaned early in life, they exercised
their mechanical genius in many enterprises, especially the
production of the Geiser ‘Peerless’ and the Frick
thresher.

Another man born in Lancaster County, George Frick, holds a key
role in the Landis story. Peter Geiser, also a major figure, was
born at Smithburg, Md. The stories of Frick and Geiser, and their
work together, has frequently been related. We are presenting this
story on the Landis family through the suggestion and cooperation
of Charles M. Car Baugh, of Waynesboro, Pa., the city in whose
industrial growth all these men took integral parts.

Franklin Landis became a master mechanic and tool maker as a
young man. He then began a shop to make models of machines for
persons who were seeking patents; a model was a required part of
the patent application. He took a brother, Ezra, as partner. George
Frick was a frequent visitor at the Landis home, traveling from
Waynesboro.

Frank and Ezra sold their business in 1872 to John Best, a
Lancaster traction engine manufacturer. Frank became manager for
Best. In 1876 Frank and Abraham formed a partnership to make small
portable farm steam engines and stationary steam engines. By 1879
they had sold out to Geiser Manufacturing Co. and moved to
Waynesboro to start work with Geiser Jan. 1, 1880.

Frank was put in charge of design and manufacturing, for the
production of the ‘Peerless’ portable engine. A year later
he designed and built a traction engine within 11 weeks. So
outstanding was this engine that it won first honors in economy and
field tests at the Cincinnati Industrial Exposition. A prize of
$500 in gold accompanied the honor.

The spring-mounted engine was very easy to handle. It could be
entirely taken apart with a 12-inch monkey wrench. This engine also
had a compensating gear, now known as the differential gear in
automobiles; its use far antedated the use in autos.

Frank started design on a plow to attach to the
‘Peerless’ in 1884. When completed, it could provide eight
to ten plowshares at one time. These could be raised or lowered by
steam lift. The ‘Peerless’ Steam Plow appealed especially
to farmers in the West and South.

Next came the new type of threshing machine with novel features
not found on competing products. The ‘New Peerless’
Thresher became another popular money-maker. Throughout Frank’s
career he displayed an eagerness to do old jobs betterto produce
new machines which made the farmer or any other operator able to do
far more, with greater efficiency in less time, than had ever
before been possible.

Frank was given assists throughout by brother Abraham. Thus
Frank had developed a cylindrical grinder on which A. B. worked out
improvements. It was put into use in the Geiser factory in 1888.
The next year the brothers formed the Landis Tool Co. to
manufacture the Landis Cylindrical Grinder, employing hundreds of
workers.

The brothers saw a need for a bolt threading machine; designed
one, and had it installed at the Geiser plant. In 1903 they formed
the Landis Machine Co., winning further recognition for machine
tool expertise.

After that came the inspiration for, and the design of, the
device which became known as the Landis ‘Farmer’s
Friend’ Pneumatic Wind Stacker. Covered by 25 patent grants, it
was licensed for manufacture nationally.

Frick Co., of Waynesboro, called on Frank in 1895 to design and
build a threshing machine which became known as the ‘Landis
Eclipse’. It was totally new in design. He also designed
machines for making concrete blocks. He devised the Electric Time
and Program Clock System for Schools.

Another of his ‘brain children’ was a type of shock
absorber, which he saw as elemental to comfort for passengers of
automobiles. He formed another firm, Landis Engineering and
Manufacturing Co., in 1913 with his son, Mark H. Landis, who became
president. The company made clocks and shock absorbers.

Frank continued working on ideas after he moved part-time to
Florida and was still mentally agile in his late 80’s, in his
laboratory at Miami Beach. By that time he had received over 200
U.S. Patents.

(This article was based on a booklet, ‘The Twenty Minute
Whistle’, which paid tribute to George Frick, Peter Geiser,
Franklin F. Landis and Abraham B. Landis, by George B. Coffman, 21
Twin Hill Road, Waynesboro, PA 17268, and an article titled
‘The Landis Family of Waynesboro’, by D. McCall White,
which appeared in Automobile Topics, May 31, 1930. We appreciate
having these materials, supplied by Charles M. Car Baugh, The
Quincy Engine Man, 17 Frick Ave., Waynesboro, PA 17268. –Ed.)

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