Stanley Shaw and his Shaw Manufacturing Co. were loyal to Galesburg, Kansas
Few may recall the Shaw Du-All, once touted as "the tractor of 100 uses," but residents in the Kansas community of Galesburg will never forget. That's because the company which manufactured those odd, marvelous machines and the man who made it all possible, Stanley Shaw, both hailed from that rural farm town. To honor the tractor's maker, and the contributions the he made to the community, Galesburg will soon celebrate Shaw Manufacturing Co.'s 100th anniversary.
Stanley Shaw, the company's founder, was born near Galesburg in 1881 and soon developed a remarkable interest in all things mechanical. He was so fascinated by farm machines that, after seeing a neighbor's steam traction engine, he built his own tractor from wood, broken gears and sundry items taken from a junk pile on the family farm. The tractor had no engine, and was instead powered by a hand-operated crank. The driver controlled the tractor from his knees, turning the crank with his left hand to propel his machine while steering with his right hand. Such an invention may not seem extraordinary for America's crafty farmers, but Shaw accomplished the feat when he was only 9 years old.
In 1895, Shaw built his first working steam engine from two bicycle pumps and a well-pump cylinder. He continued to experiment with engines and built his first gasoline engine in 1902. The engine used the cylinder of a well pump, common plumbing check valves, horse-drawn mower parts and asbestos packing rings. The engine didn't run well, but Shaw kept tinkering with it until it started and ran with ease.
Shaw eventually secured a Waltham and Elgin watch dealership, and opened for business as the Shaw Manufacturing Co. in 1903. Located in an old Galesburg drug store, Shaw sold and repaired watches in the front, while he built gasoline engines in the back. In 1905, Shaw patented an air-cooled engine to convert his bicycle into a motorbike. Shaw also designed a bicycle equipped with the engine. Soon, Shaw sold several engine sizes -both air- and water-cooled models - for farm, home and industrial uses.
Shaw continued to dream up new applications for his engines. In 1908, he produced a simple automobile that he called a Shawmobile. The vehicle was 6 feet long, transported two people and reached speeds of 25 mph. The company claimed that fuel consumption was rated between 60 and 90 miles per gallon. It sold for $150.
Business prospered, and by 1911 Shaw outgrew his little factory. He purchased the Kokomo Motorcycle Co. of Kokomo, Ind., that same year, not only to expand his product line with Kokomo-made products, but because he needed a larger manufacturing facility. Shaw intended to move his operation to Kokomo, but his father, Joseph, couldn't bear to see him leave Galesburg and promised to build him a new factory if he stayed. Shaw heeded his father's wish and remained in Galesburg.
By the early 1920s, Shaw turned to garden tractor designs. The first examples were understandably crude and utilized Shaw-built engines. The Shawmobile was also redesigned and marketed as the Shaw Speedster. By 1930, waning interest in the Speedster led to its discontinuation as the company's efforts shifted into garden tractor production.
Shaw's garden tractor was patented in 1924 as the Shaw Du-All. The T-25 was the first successful model and Shaw soon found that demand far outweighed his ability to produce engines quickly or cheaply enough, so he purchased engines from other sources. A Briggs & Stratton engine was adapted to the T-25, as well as the company's second-most successful tractor, the Model T-45. Many variations of these two models were available, but the T-25 and T-45 were the company's mainstay for nearly a decade.
The company released an improved tractor known as the D series in 1933. The majority of the D series models offered Briggs & Stratton engines, but two-cylinder Harley Davidson engines and Stover and Nelson Bros, engines were also used on some models.
Shaw mass-produced and marketed its first riding tractor - the RD series - in 1938. The tractor was basically a D series walking tractor converted to a riding tractor. Stanley Shaw operated the company until 1962, when, at age 81, he sold the business to Bush Hog of Selma, Ala.
Shaw had many opportunities to relocate the company from Galesburg during his tenure, but he flatly refused. He was as loyal to Galesburg and his employees as they were to him, and he often made financial contributions to Galesburg schools, the city water department and religious institutions and gave generous employee bonuses during good years. Stanley Shaw died in May 1981 at age 100. He's buried in the Mt. Hope cemetery in Galesburg, the town he loved.
The three-day Galesburg Days celebration begins July 4, 2003, and will include Shaw family members and former employees who will share experiences and memories of Stanley Shaw and the Shaw factory. Cliff Bridgeford, Shaw Club and Registry founder, is also scheduled to attend. A large selection of Shaw-built equipment owned by collectors from across America will be on hand, and a Shaw swap meet will be held. Collectors are welcome to bring any Shaw-related equipment or memorabilia in any condition to show and share. FC
Jim Cunzenheim is president of the Vintage Garden Tractor Club of America and writes frequently about garden tractors for hobbyist publications. Write him at 412 W. Chestnut, Pardeeville, WI 53954; or call (608) 429-4520; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about Galesburg Days and the Shaw Manufacturing Co. commemoration, contact John Hasty at (620) 763-2357 or Tammy Miller at (620) 763-2321.