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April 2022

My Little Maytag

By Paul Harvey

Why am I writing about Maytag when CPM has so many fine engines here?  I guess its nostalgia creeping in.  One day, I was thinking about some of my early engines and the little two-cylinder Maytag popped into my mind.  Gosh, I sure had fun with it way back then.  Hmmm!  ďThenĒ was almost 60 years ago!  So, the idea of a story appeared, and I am glad to share it with my readers.  Here goes!

Maytag Project 1

As a freshman in high school, the science class had a session on engines. Gosh, that was 1957.  Many of the guys brought in examples and I was impressed. I had fooled around with a little old Briggs and Stratton that my dad had, but had never seen any of these two-cycle models.  One kid had a two-cylinder Maytag and I bought it for $2.00.  Wow!  A little two-cylinder gas engine!  Now what to do with it? So, my dad and I spent a winter taking it all apart, learning how it works, and even making a base for it.  No Internet then, so we were on our own.  Try something and whoops, wrong thing, so try again and gosh it works!  I had fun belting it up to several applications.  Some were not very successful.

But now letís move up a few years to when I was in college at St. Vincent. Exploring down in their junkyard, I found a 1948 Olds woody station wagon.  Idea!  I took off the generator and regulator, and made a light plant with the Maytag.  Guess that was 1963.  Wow!  It worked great with 6-volt light bulbs.  They were common in the hardware store then.  So, the little engine lived again.  I even took it out to Clear Creek State Park on some camping trips and lighted the little Shasta trailer with it. Gosh, those were the good old days.  It worked so well, as long as no one was near enough to complain!

Maytag Project 2

Jumping now to the present and considering the long winter ahead, I asked Kenny and Bo to bring it over to my warm garage so I could get it running.  I needed a project to keep me busy through all the cold and snowy days!  Looking at it, I thought that I was quite ingenious then, but I was disappointed in my shoddy workmanship.  I guess I was always in a hurry, but I bet I could do better this time!  Youíll see the results a bit later.

There has been so much written about the Model 72 Maytag that I donít think that I can add any more.  Manuals and parts are available online now.  But who invented them?  So, letís take a look into that.

F.L. Maytag

Fredrick Louis Maytag, later known as F.L., was born in Elgin, Illinois, on July 14, 1857.  He founded the Maytag Corporation, which was finally acquired by Whirlpool in 2006.  Iím sure many of us have a least one Maytag appliance in our homes.   Whoops, Iím getting ahead of myself, so we will go back in time a bit.

F.L. was the eldest child of ten children born to his German-Jewish immigrant parents.  The original family name was Maitag, meaning May Day in German, but was Americanized to Maytag.  They didnít have much, but they were determined to find a home in the great American Midwest, then the frontier.  That they did, but F.L. was determined to go further.  His is a great story of success, rising from such humble beginnings.  The Great American Dream coming true.  Letís take a look!

In 1893, F.L., with his two brothers-in-law, and George Parsons, established a company to manufacture farm implements.  After all, agriculture was the main occupation in the new Midwest, and anything to make the farmer's life better would be well accepted.  F.L. proved to be a very ingenious inventor, seeing the needs of the people.  He was soon in control of the entire new company and expanding into other products.

In 1907, he turned to washing machines.  Yep, washing clothes was drudgery for the farmerís wife.  These first machines were hand-operated, but easier than the competition.  They sold well!  Great, he had a new successful market going, but now to make it better.  Hmmm!  Yep, he did!  In 1911, he invented a little gas engine and added it to his washing machine.  Yikes, they sold like hotcakes!  Can you imagine running a cantankerous and stinky gasoline engine to wash your clothes today?  No, but it was wonderful in its day, and a great new business was started.

The history of the Maytag engines is well documented and will not be discussed in this article.  Briefly, there was a variety of vertical models that transitioned to the well-known single-cylinder model.  These engines worked well but were always rough running.  The twin came out in 1937 and lasted until 1952, when gasoline engine washing machines were discontinued.  With their improved governing system, they were very smooth running and pleasant engines.

In 1922, Maytag came out with the Gyrofoam washer which placed the agitator on the bottom, instead of the usual top agitator.  Wow!  The Gyrofoam worked very well and again sales boomed.  This design also pioneered the aluminum square tub.  Finally, the leaky wooden tub was gone.  Producing a one-piece aluminum tub was quite an accomplishment in that day.  With improvements, this design lasted for many years and led the washing machine industry.  In 1927, he produced his one millionth washer!  Quite a business!  In 1940, Fred Maytag II, grandson of the founder, took over the business after F.L.ís death.  It continued to prosper.  The great American Dream came true!  So, letís see how he shared the new found wealth.

Maytag Gyrofoam

F.L. Maytag did so much for his home town, and factory location, Newton, Iowa.  That small city of 15,000 people is located in east central Iowa, on I-80.  It was a pleasant place to live and work.

Newton, Iowa

He donated 40 acres in southern Newton for Maytag Park, which included manicured gardens, quaint paths, and a band shell for relaxed summer concerts.  Maytag Park is still well-used today.

Maytag Park

He spearheaded a new theater and water plants for the city.  Newton, Iowa, became a model city for the Midwest.  Building hundreds of houses for his workers, he sold them on long and easy terms.

F.L. also built and donated the Maytag Hotel, which was very convenient to the many visitors.  The hotel is still alive today, offering beautiful one and two room apartments at reasonable prices.

Maytag Hotel

F.L. passed away from heart problems at his winter home in Beverly Hills, California, in 1937.  But what a life he had.  He left an estate worth $10 million, which would be $184 million today!  A special train brought his casket and scores of mourners back to Newton.  There, over 10,000 employees and mourners formed a line five blocks long to observe the funeral procession.  He was well loved!  He is buried in the Newton Union Cemetery.  And so, a legacy came to an end.

Maytag Mausoleum

So, letís take a peek at how my present restoration came along.

Maytag Restoration 1

I really could not improve on my original design, and not want to, but I sure could pay attention to detail and make it more attractive.  Paint always does wonders!  Here is the first stage of reassembly.  Hmmm!  Looks better already and easy to do.

The engine did not get painted as its original finish was very nice after a thorough cleaning.  But all the other parts had a lot of rust under the dirt, so they got spruced up with satin finish black paint.  The generator had already been taken apart and cleaned.  All wiring is original and cleaned easily.  Nice!

Maytag Restoration 2

So now we see the final result.  After many years of hibernation, the little Maytag is now powering a 12-volt, 50-watt light bulb and quite happy with it.  To me, it was a great trip down memory lane as well as a rewarding project.

Maytag Run

The Maytag will be displayed at the Machine Works Building at Coolspring Power Museum.  Why not visit us this year so you can see for yourself.  Now, on to the next project!



Text Copyright © by Coolspring Power Museum