Monday, January 12, 2015

A roadside Farquhar Engine

Arthur Briggs Farquhar was one of those fortunate individuals born in the right place at the right time to the right parents. Coupled with an aptitude for mechanics and plenty of drive and self confidence he was certain to succeed in his chosen profession. When he was 18 years of age his family arranged an apprenticeship with the W.W. Dingee Company, a manufacturer of farm machinery and tools and young Arthur moved to York Pa. in 1856 from the family farm near Washington, DC. Within about a year and a half with a loan from his father he bought an interest in the company and became a partner. He was now a sales agent whose territory was the agricultural South and the company's name changed to the Pennsylvania Agricultural Works. Shortly before the Civil War the partnership with Dingee was dissolved after the factory burned to the ground and Farquhar became the sole proprietor. Arthur rebuilt the factory and the business and by 1884 it was the largest industry in York Pa. The firm manufactured all manner of farm tools and machinery including the Ajax and Pennsylvania steam engines and boilers. That same year the Scientific American magazine featured an article in their January issue ( which I'm still trying to locate a copy of.) about the company and it's products. The business was growing at 15 to 20 percent annually with a thriving export market around the globe. A branch factory and store was also established in Macon Georgia that produced equipment for the rice and cotton farmers of the south. From the late 1880's until the mid 1920's steam engines both portable and traction engines became the most important product produced by the firm, marketed under the Ajax and Pennsylvania brand. In 1889 the company name was changed to A.B. Farquhar Co. LTD. and engines marked as such may have been produced. After the turn of the century gasoline engines began to make inroads into the market and by 1915 Farquhar LTD. was manufacturing portable engines and tractors that were produced until the tractor line was purchased by Oliver in 1925. A.B. died in March of 1925 and the company passed to his son Francis who had been with the firm since 1900. The late 20's and 30's brought many changes. Electrification of many areas and improvements to the internal combustion engine reduced demand for steam powered engines and production was phased out during the 1930's. The company shifted production to farm equipment and conveyor products for factories and continued as the A.B. Farquhar Company until 1952 when it was purchased by the Oliver Corporation.

The portable engine shown here sat beside highway 74 in Anson County, North Carolina for many years. It may still be there but I haven't been that way for several years. I have never been able to learn much about this machine. You might think that the internet would be a font of information but that is not the case. Aside from a bit of company history, there's not a lot to be found, especially about specific machines. Your local library probably won't be much help either. Since it's marked A.B.Farquhar it was built after 1889. The engine mounted on top of the boiler is marked Ames Iron Works. I have not found any reference to a connection between these two companies so it was probably added as a replacement part at a later date. If you can add any information about this engine please leave a comment.

Sources and resources:

Company History: A.B. Farquhar by Gail E. Knauer

A Short History of the A.B. Farquhar Company by Jack C. Norbeck

York County Heritage Trust


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