Friday, July 1, 2016

Total Eclipse

“Be sure you are right, then do it quickly.”  Good advice for almost any undertaking. It was George Frick’s personal motto and it served him well.

Born in Lancaster County, Pa. in 1826 at a time when the sleepy pace of thousands of years was changing very quickly; he was immersed in the technology of his day from childhood. By the time he was nine years old he was helping his father operate a water wheel powered sawmill near Quincy, Pa. At seventeen he was apprenticed to a millwright in Ringold, Md. a few miles away. He had little formal education, like most of his contemporaries, but he had an aptitude for math and an intuitive understanding of all things mechanical.

By the early 1850’s he was building an assortment of farm machinery and his first 2hp. Steam engine in his machine shop and foundry in Ringold.  In 1853 he established The Frick Co. By 1857 he had added threshing machines to his product line and around 1860 had moved his company into a larger shop in Waynesboro , Pa.  The 1870’s saw the addition of traction steam engines and sawmills to the list of products manufactured by Frick. This Frick sawmill dates to at least the mid 1930’s. It was donated to the Foothills Antique Power Association of NC. by Ira and Ann Cline and was in operation at the 12th Annual Power Show in 2015. It is being powered by the Eclipse traction engine in the background.

About 1876 Frick began using the Eclipse trademark on steam engines. Eventually the entire product line of portable and traction engines, boilers, threshers and sawmills would use the name. By 1879 the company was publishing a house magazine called “The Eclipse Era”.  The 1880’s were a period of rapid expansion for the company. A new plant was built in Waynesboro, Pa. that was a marvel of modern manufacturing. It was featured in an article published by the Scientific American magazine. Sales offices were opened around the country. A Frick catalogue published in 1907 listed 19 locations including this one in Salisbury, NC. Other branch offices in the Southeastern USA included: Winchester, Va., Baltimore, Md., Charleston, W.Va., Nashville, Tenn. and Atlanta, Ga.

In 1882 Frick built its first ammonia refrigeration compressor and entered a field that carried the firm far past the era of steam power. Frick became an industry leader building some of the largest refrigeration plants ever constructed. Food processing plants, ice houses, skating rinks all used Frick products. Compressors like this one provided refrigeration wherever cooling was needed. Known for their long life and dependable service they were built to run forever. Forty years of daily service was not unusual. This one was probably still operable when the packing house it served was shut down and abandoned.

After 43 years at the helm of the company he founded, George Frick retired in 1888 but Frick Manufacturing soldiered on.  His son A.O. Frick served as president from 1904 to 1924 followed by Ezra Frick from 1924 to 1942. In 1953 to celebrate a century in business the company published a small book titled A History of Frick Company Waynesboro, Pa. which is probably one of the best sources you will find online and is well worth a look. Visit : and search for Frick history . You’ll be glad you did. Frick was purchased by York in 1987. Refrigeration equipment is still manufactured today under the Frick name by Johnson Controls.

While you’re at take a look at a general catalogue of Frick products available in 1907, a very interesting historical document, full of photographs and illustrations. The web address is:

According to a list of Frick serial numbers posted at  serial number 7883 would have been built in 1899, and here it is, powering a Frick sawmill in 2015. They sure don’t build em like they used to.

Additional resources:  George Frick and his Steam Empire by Sam Moore, March, 2012
Encyclopedia of American Steam Traction Engines by Jack Norbeck

No comments:

Post a Comment

Leave a comment or send an email to: