About United

Dick Webber has supplied a great deal of information, pictures, and master lists to give support to the website. The following is a letter he published in Gas Engine Magazine regarding the United line.

November 19, 2014


At the Portland spring swap meet in 2004 I bought a 1 ¾ hp United air-cooled engine and my search for information about United began. I was surprised, that for fairly common engines, little information was available.. This led me to survey serial numbers and some basic engine information in GAS ENGINE MAGAZINE and on Harry Matthew’s website, www.smokstak.com. After years of collecting information from United owners there are still more questions than answers, but here’s what I’ve learned.

United began as United Manufacturer’s Association, and tagged the early engines U.M.A. Tags changed later to United Manufacturers, Lansing, MI. United Manufacturers did not manufacture engines, rather they purchased “contract engines” from others. Associated Manufacturers of Waterloo, Iowa is the most common and probably the last source. Early United engines originated from Thompson, Waterloo Boy, Nelson Brothers, and another, possibly Field and Brundage.

Engine “Types” as shown on the United tag, have been reported as A, B, C, F, H and S.

The earliest known United is serial number 4717, no type listed on tag, and believed sourced from J. Thompson & Sons. Wendel’s “American Gas Engines Since 1872” speculates that Gilson could have been the supplier as early as 1911. Engine 4717 appears to be the same as pictured by Wendel on page 520. Owners question the Gilson connection, insisting that the engine is identical to the Thompson Tiger. Pictures I have seen confirm that. There are three hopper cooled examples and one air cooled reported, all two horsepower. Here are clear pictures of an engine of the same type, number 5560.

Apparently the next United offering was Type “B”. There is one reported example, serial number 3012. This engine appeared in 1912 according to Wendel’s American Gas Engines Since 1872 and is pictured on page 520. I do not know who produced this engine for United, perhaps Field and Brundage. Comments are welcome. Engine 3012 is pictured here.

There is also a Type C United. Wendel refers to Type C and suggests that they were supplied by Associated. That engine appears on Page 521 in American Gas Engines Since 1872, and does not look Associated to my untrained eye. In 1993 an owner in the United Kingdom wrote to Gas Engine Magazine to ask about his Type C 2 ½ horsepower engine serial number 937, posting a picture which suggests Nelson Bros. There are only 4 reports of type C engines, 3 of which are in the United Kingdom. No clear pictures are available now. My guess is that Nelson was an early supplier to United for a short time.

Type F United engines were sourced from Waterloo Gas Engine Co and J. Thompson & Sons. Waterloo Boy the second most common United supplier. Waterloo United serial numbers fit in with regular Waterloo production just like the other Waterloo contract engines. Reported numbers are well grouped from 36213 (early 1911) to 83928 (mid 1913), which fits with the entry of Associated supplied engines. However, there are 3 more reports that extend as high as 124314, late 1915, well into the dates of Associated produced Uniteds.

Type A United engines were supplied by Associated Manufacturers, and most parts interchange. United serial numbers are generally not the same as Associated serial numbers, and it is likely that the number assignment plan was conceived by Associated. However, numbers are co-mingled on certain models.. Serial numbers for 1 ½ hp United and 1 ½ hp Associated Johnny Boy overlap. No duplications have been reported. Similarly 2 ¼ Hired Hand numbers intermingle with 2 ½ and 3 ½ United hopper cooled, as do 4 and 6 horsepower United and Associated. No Associated engines with United tags are reported, but there are several United engines bearing Associated tags, and I conclude that Associated sold whatever they had on hand, perhaps including left over Uniteds as the end of production neared.

Type H appears on Gas/Kerosene engines, throttle governed. They were of Associated manufacture and appear to have been sequentially numbered with the same horsepower Type A engines. I believe the dual fuel engines appeared in the later teens.

Type S is also quite rare, and a later engine. There are seven reported, one of which has a very unusual hopper. It is believed that Type S was an up-rated 4.5 horsepower engine. Type S was probably introduced in 1924 when the lines were uprated.. They are generally equipped with the later two bolt magneto.

As with Associated engines, Uniteds are usually seen with battery ignition or the tall 4 bolt rotary magneto. Around 1924 the 2 bolt magneto appeared. Webster magnetos appear occasionally. A few 4 bolt magnetos have dates stamped on the magnets. Magnetos are easily switched, but look yours over; it may assist in the dating if you have an original engine.

United ‘s colorful president C.L. Sprinkle apparently did whatever necessary to make a sale. There are a number of examples of United engines with other names. A 1 ¾ horsepower “Wettlauper” cement mixer engine still bearing the “United” stencil, and four engines tagged Gray-Aldrich of Boston have been reported. Another contract name is G. D. Thorndike Machine Co, with reports of three and five hp engines. There are 7 Acadia engines reported that bear serial numbers and tags from both Acadia and United. Speculation is that Acadia, an established manufacturer of marine engines, bought United to test the stationary engine market, then decided to build their own engines using designs very similar to United. United engines bearing tags from Lunenberg Foundry. Wonder Machinery Co. and George D. Lessig & Sons have also been reported.

What color was my engine? Usually the classic United/Associated red appears. I recently found a beautiful blue United tagged engine. There are also green, and black engines, apparently painted to specification of the contract purchaser.

“How old is my United engine is the most common question. According to Wendel , United Manufacturer’s Association first appeared in trade publications in January 1911, offering the Thompson Tiger based model. Wendel states that Type A Associated production began October 1912. My research suggests it might be mid 1913 unless United sourced from both Waterloo and Associated in the same time period. Early United production featured gas tanks located in the engine base after August 1915. The improved “gooseneck” trip was also introduced in 1915. Two bolt magnetos, J type mixers and horsepower up-rating appear about 1924. I have no information on Company activity after 1924, and I conclude that by 1927 sales activity had fallen sharply. I have no information establishing the end of the Company.

I welcome any comments that will add to the United story. I do not claim to be an expert; rather just an interested United owner observing trends from information received. I’m especially interested in any sales receipts with dates, or advertising materials. If you have information of interest, a United engine to add to the registry, or want to talk about (or take issue with) this article, please contact me.

Dick Webber

1737 Mimosa Court

Bowling Green, KY 42103

270-842-2686, cell 270-282-5717