The company dates back to 1885 when they opened an office in Reading, Pennsylvania and a factory in a town called Cumru. By 1890 they had incorporated and expanded with additional offices in New York City, Chicago, Illinois, and Boston, Ma.
Their products included; vertical and horizontal steam boilers, steam and electric hoisting engines, gasoline and kerosene hoists and of course, portable steam engines that ranged from 6 to 40 hp. By 1891 they employed 175 workers.
During the next century Orr & Sembower gradually faded from view, at least that’s what is available on the web leads you to believe. I found a mention of them from a publication called “ Domestic Engineering” dated to 1969 that describes them as “One of the largest international manufacturers of commercial / industrial boilers.” In 1975 the Calderas Group acquired the rights to the Powermaster brand for Mexico. They had been associated with Orr & Sembower since 1949, first as a sales representative and by 1954 as a licensed manufacturer of the PowerMaster boilers in Mexico. In 2011 they bought the Power Master rights for the United States.
Today you can find a website for the Calderas Group but not for Orr & Sembower. Calderas markets their fire tube Power Master boiler globally, according to their website. There are a few companies that advertise repair parts for Orr & Sembower boilers but these appear to be odds and ends leftovers.
The portable engine shown here is owned by the Moody Family who presented its history on their nicely prepared display that you see in front of the engine. The original owner was a man named W.B. Brunson who ordered the engine from a distributor located in Augusta, Ga. in 1920. It was shipped from the factory by rail and Brunson pulled it back to his home in Edgefield, SC. with his team of oxen, a journey that took him two days, one way. Brunson used the engine to power a sawmill that he operated into the 1930’s. By 1940 the engine had been retired to lawn ornament duty at Brunson’s home.
In 1973 Bill Moody purchased the engine and it sat in his yard until 2010 when it was returned to operating condition after an overhaul. Today it’s fired up once a year at the Richland Creek Antique Fall Festival. To learn more about next year’s show visit: www.richlandcreekantiques.com .
Encyclopedia of American Steam Traction Engines by Jack Norbeck