It’s a Quincy

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Jim Notnagle with his 1914 Quincy tractor
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Quincy gasoline tractor
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Jim Notnagle with his 1914 Quincy tractor

Only two Quincy gasoline tractors reportedly remain in existence. One is thought to be somewhere in Pennsylvania; the other one, a 1914 Quincy, resides in New Midway, Md., where Jim Notnagle is the proud and caring owner.

Jim has had his 1914 Quincy for five years, ever since Rich Rice of Hagerstown, Md., offered to sell it to him. ‘He figured I’d keep it,’ said Jim, who also owns six Quincy engines. ‘I buy stuff because I like it. This one will be here when I’m gone.’

The 6 hp tractor came with its original 1930 registration card listing the name and address of the original owner, Frank Foss of Luzerne County, Pa. The brass plaque on the engine identifies it as serial number 1037.

According to Rich Rice, his father, Elmer Rice of Hagerstown, Md., discovered the Quincy in the 1970s at Shickshinny, in north-central Pennsylvania. A gas engine collector, Elmer sold the tractor not long before his death to Charles Martin of Myersville, Md. A year later, Martin died, and the tractor went into his estate auction, where Rich bought it back.

‘I didn’t want to see it go out of the area,’ he said. ‘Buying it helped me get over the death of my father.’

Rich kept the tractor for 10 years and then offered it to Jim ‘because I knew him and knew he was a serious collector of Quincy engines.’ He added that his dad and Jim’s dad also were friends.

The engine was in good shape when Jim got it. ‘I rebuilt a few pieces  the igniter, the governor, and I made new bushings. But it’s all original,’ Jim said. ‘I just repaired it. I think it was used originally to pull the thresher or other equipment from one farm to another. I don’t think it was ever used in the fields to pull a plow.’

‘It runs OK. It’s got chain-type steering, like a steam engine. The radiator is water cooled. A circulation system sends water from the pipe through the screen to keep the engine cool.’

Two original wooden tool boxes, one in the back and one up front behind the radiator, remain with the tractor. They even had tools in them when Jim took possession. The 10-gallon gas tank, also mounted at the back, is made of galvanized tin, with a wooden top that Jim said looks like an old piano stool. The platform where the tractor operator stands is made of oak.

‘A previous owner put rubber on the wheels to give them more traction,’ he said, ‘but they have the original cleats and no holes were drilled in them. I even found some big spikes in the front tool box that can be added to the wheels to make traction better.’

Company history

According to Jim, who has been researching the Quincy Engine Company’s history, it operated in Franklin County, Pa., during the second half of the 19th century, an era of remarkable mechanical invention and industrial growth.

The company’s founder, John L. Metcalfe, was born in 1831 in England and came as a boy to the United States. In the early 1850’s, he and his wife settled in the town of Quincy, Pa., where Metcalfe started manufacturing and repairing grist and saw mills. During this period, he also invented and patented a threshing machine, the rights to which he sold to the Frick Co., owned by George Frick of nearby Waynesboro, Pa. Frick and competitor Peter Geiser were experimenting with steam engines and grain separators in Waynesboro at that time, and eventually became much better known for their efforts than Metcalfe.

As the century progressed, the Quincy Engine Co., like many manufacturing companies in those days, went through a variety of financial and political challenges. By the late 1870s, Metcalfe’s son, John T. Metcalfe, had become active in his father’s business, which specialized in gasoline engines but also built threshers.

In 1889, the company relocated to nearby Shippensburg, but within a year it was back in Quincy. In 1901, plans were in the works to relocate again, to Waynesboro, home of the Frick Co., but they came to nothing. Then, on a Saturday afternoon in May 1904, what was then known as the Metcalfe

Manufacturing Co. burned to the ground. By 1906, the Quincy Engine Company was back in business, but within 10 years it had moved to Chambersburg, and shut down permanently.

In that 10-year period, though, the company also produced tractors. According to C.H. Wendel’s Encyclopedia of American Tractors, Quincy introduced its 10-20 model tractor in 1912, and as late as 1916, a Quincy tractor was listed in the Tractor Field Book.

Although the company shut down in 1916, John T. Metcalfe wasn’t ready to quit. For the next 20 years, he worked alone in his own business. ‘Much of his time was occupied in repairing all types of tools, implements and machines,’ Jim said. ‘He was the company. The engines and the air compressors he assembled said simply, ‘Made by John T. Metcalfe, Manufacturer, Quincy, Pennsylvania.’ He did that almost to the day he died.’ In addition to the Quincy tractor and engines in Jim’s barn, a vast array of mechanical projects in every stage of overhaul and repair also can be found, and of course there’s an overflow into the nearby field.

Like father, like son

‘My dad always messed with antique cars,’ Jim said. ‘He bought gas engines and put them under the work bench. When I was a kid I dragged them out to see how they worked. Dad was a machinist and taught me everything he knew.’

Jim also is a machinist by trade, but in his spare time, he makes reproduction parts for old gas engines and works on other restoration and repair projects. He also attends about two dozen shows a year, traveling to Indiana, Iowa, North Carolina and New England. And he attends auctions and engine sales too, looking for neat, old equipment that needs work.

‘I fix things for other people,’ he said. ‘I’ve got a lathe, a milling machine, a circle cutter, a lot of stuff. In the winter I go out there, get the wood stove going and go to work. The challenge is to see if I can get something running. I like to see if I can do it.’ FC

Jim Notnagle is looking for additional information on Quincy tractors. If you can help, write him at 12131 Woodsboro Pike, Keymar, MD 21757.

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