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Spring 2024

The Marinette Story

Part 1: Marinette History

By Paul Harvey

Marinette 75 hp Engine


This is the story about our 75 hp Marinette gas engine residing at Coolspring Power Museum. A catalog picture of our engine is shown. There is a long and interesting tale about this engine and its makers. It will unfold before us now. So, let’s travel back in time to discover its beginnings.

Where is Marinette?

Our time travel takes us to the shore of Lake Michigan in the early 1800s. Wow! This is really a big wilderness; but wait a bit— there are already a few French-Canadian fur traders here. The first European settler was Stanislaus Chuppu, a fur trader. The area prospered from the fur trade but it was short lived. Lumber became prominent then and lasted many years.

The town of Marinette was named for Marie Antoinette Chevalier, (1793-1865). Her father was French-Canadian and her mother was Menominee. Marie became a very astute and fair business person and opened a trading post at the mouth of the Menominee River. She was so successful that she was called Queen Marinette. She married another trader, John Jacobs, and they had three children. The oldest, John Jr., continued with the family business and finally mapped out the town of Marinette. And so, our stage is set!

Marinette Map

Marinette, Wisconsin, has continued to prosper during the ensuing years. It has had a relatively stable economy. The photo shows a very pleasant midwestern town, which is the county seat of Marinette County. The city now has a population of about 11,000.

Marinette Street

The Iron Works

Our time travel has left us in a very early and primitive part of Marinette’s history. So, let’s move up a few years and see what industry they now have. Wow! In 1867 a gent named DeWitt Clinton Prescott, along with R.H. Trumbell and Austin Cruver, established a shop on Joe Bart Island to repair sawmills. It burned in 1870, but they were already building a big shop on Main Street of Marinette. In 1872, Prescott bought out his partners and formed the Marinette Iron Works. They could build a large variety of equipment including steam engines and locomotives. Several years later, the Walrath engine would be added. This development is the beginning of the Marinette engine.

In 1898, Prescott moved to Chicago where he set up his business headquarters. He built a plant in Chicago Heights to manufacture the Marinette Gas Engine, as they had outgrown the Marinette Iron Works. It was a huge facility but the demand for the engines was great. This facility was advertised as the largest factory in the country devoted solely to gas engine manufacture, and was named the Marinette Gas Engine Company. But Prescott passed away in 1918, and his company soon evaporated. It was the end of an era for the Marinette engine.

Marinette Factory

Foos Engine Company of Springfield, Ohio, bought Marinette about 1907 and continued making the engines for many more years. With a few changes, they were very successful.

Foos Ad


Jesse Walrath

Now, let us return in our time travel to 1838 and visit the village of Chittenango, Madison County, New York. On November 7, 1838, Jesse Walrath was born. He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Walrath. His father was well known for his expertise in manufacturing and farming. Jesse was educated at local schools and colleges. He became an expert machinist and mechanical engineer. His career quickly blossomed.

Chittenango Map

Upon graduation, Jesse was recruited by George Corliss of the Corliss Steam Engine Works in Providence, Rhode Island. He was soon promoted to General Superintendent.

Here, he had the opportunity to work with Edwin Reynolds, (1831-1909). This experience would be wonderful for him. Reynolds was a prodigious engineer and worked for Corliss from 1861 to 1877. Reynolds was then asked by Edward P. Allis to move to Milwaukee to be his general superintendent. His Reynolds-Corliss steam engine was most successful. Reynolds was a prime mover to develop Allis-Chalmers in 1901. He designed much machinery and products for them.

Jesse remained there until 1880 and then moved to Racine, Wisconsin, to become the general superintendent of J.I. Case. He was there until 1896 and made many improvements for them. Also, during these years, his interest in gas engines was sparked, and he did very significant work that eventually became the Marinette engine. In 1903, he retired to private life and became a consulting engineer. He passed away on April 30, 1909. He is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in his hometown of Chittenango.

Chittenango Street

Jesse Walrath Grave  Walrath Plot

Raymond or Walrath?

These two very gifted engineers had ideas that were very similar and their paths finally crossed. We have just learned of Jesse Walrath’s life and career, and know he was General Superintendent of J.I. Case and overseeing all their products.

So now let us see what John Raymond is doing? About 1891, he was in San Francisco designing a vertical engine with rotary valves. A very handsome design with odd flywheels.

Raymond Engine

It had a vertical shaft between the cylinders that had a gear that drove the two rotary valve gears and the governor head. Note the oilers on top for the rotary valves. Walrath had a very similar design in 1895, but the central vertical shaft drove poppet valves. During this time, both were in the employ of Case!

The following illustrations will help us understand the two makers’ engines. Raymond left Racine in 1896.

Walrath Patent 577,898  Raymond Cutaway

Is there a connection in the work of these two engineers? They worked together at Case for three years and must have had some interaction. Were they friends or adversaries? We will never know!

This photo shows the only known Raymond in existence. Note that it was built by Hicks in Chicago, and not by J.I. Case. Interesting, but that is another long story. It is now in a private collection.

Raymond Engine  Raymond Engine

Walrath Patents

Jesse was a very prolific designer and considering his employment with Corliss, Reynolds, and Case, he had the opportunity to expand his imagination. And that he did! He also included several other topics for at least 33 patents. His earliest patent is in 1868 for a brick making machine!

But for our purposes, the author will only include Jesse’s significant gas engine patents.

1. First gas engine patent found: July 10, 1894. 522,811

Jesse’s first gas engine patent. Appears to be a reasonable horizontal twin cylinder engine. It also appears to be very complicated. There is no evidence that it was ever built. But this was his first venture into gas engines.

Walrath Patent 522,811  Walrath Patent 522,811

2. Second gas engine patent: March 2, 1897. 577,898

This patent is very interesting. It represents an engine very similar to the Raymond engine. However, Jesse used poppet valves instead of Raymond’s rotary valves. The vertical shaft drove a large gear in the center of the head which had a face cam to actuate the poppet valve. Note the igniter was also rotary.

Walrath Patent 577,898  Walrath Patent 577,898

3. Third gas engine patent: March 9, 1897. 578,377

A week after Jesse got his second patent, he was awarded this one. He was still using the Raymond rotary valve. A very odd engine and I would guess it never saw production. But note that he is now dealing with verticals.

Walrath Patent 578,377  Walrath Patent 578,377

4. Fourth gas engine patent: Sept. 12, 1899. 632,859

Jesse is now thinking multiple-cylinder, vertical inline engines. This patent looks like a new design for him, but the large crankcase breather reverts back to the Raymond. Jesse is definitely designing a new engine.

Walrath Patent 632,859  Walrath Patent 632,859

5. Fifth gas engine patent: March 5, 1901. 669,272

This patent illustrates that the engine frame design is completed and shows that the idler timing gear is used to take up wear in the shaft bearings. It was used on the Marinette engines. Ingenious and successful.

Walrath Patent 669,272  Walrath Patent 669,272

6. Sixth gas engine patent: October 26, 1900. 676,642

Of the six patents that I selected, I think this one is the most significant to show the development of the Walrath engine. His air start mechanism shown here was unique, and necessary for the large engines.

Walrath Patent 676,642  Walrath Patent 676,642

Jesse had many more gas engine patents that detailed various items on his engine. These included the mixer, the igniters, and the governor. He covered every aspect of his new engine in detail that produced a very successful machine.

Offset Crankshaft

Perhaps you noticed in the sixth engine patent, the crankshaft appears offset to the cylinder center line. This feature is a very common practice on large vertical engines. Hmm! Wonder why?

This illustration best explains the reason. This practice has been used on so much machinery that needs more force on the working stroke, and less on the return. Many machine tools use this practice. Jesse took advantage of an old and successful principle.

Offset Crankshaft

Catalog Details

I have been very fortunate to use this original 48-page catalog, owned by Justin Jenkins, who also mechanically restored the engine. I will share some of the photos and facts from the catalog. It presents a very remarkable story. Although it is not dated, I would assume it to be about 1910. Let’s see some of its contents.

The catalog is in remarkably good condition and very comprehensive. Note that the Marinette name is retained until purchased by Foos, and the Walrath connection is proudly advertised. It starts with a very detailed introduction to the engine, and gives some history. The illustrations are superb.

Marinette Catalog

Early into the catalog, we are greeted with this little 4 hp Marinette. Yep, just like the big ones with all the same features. Cute, but looks expensive! The catalog tells us that the single-cylinder engines were built from 4 to 40 hp; the twin cylinder engines were built from 8 to 80 hp; and the triple cylinder engines from 50 to 250 hp. Other references suggest a 2 hp as well as a 300 hp were built.

Marinette 4 hp Engine

Shown in the catalog, the firm included this line of special engine. These engines were built to 15 hp and appear to be the “economy model.” None appear to exist!

Marinette Special Engine

This open frame version of the Marinette is absolutely fantastic. It was built to save weight in many uses. But why, you ask? Well, it was adapted to marine use as well as to many portable applications. Certainly, a magnificent machine. Hmmm? Wonder if one still exists?

Marinette Open Frame Engine

This photo illustrates the need for weight reduction. Fantastic portable electric generation! Interesting where the driver sat during transport. Wonder how many horses were needed to move it?

Marinette Portable Engine

This scene is the interior of one of the machine shops in the new factory at Chicago Heights. Hmmm! Looks like some house cleaning is needed. But it was so successful and so many engines were built and ran well.

Marinette Factory

The entire catalog is well designed with excellent illustrations, and contains additional tables concerning pulley speeds, fuel consumption, and other useful information. It has 48 pages!

Next: Part 2 - CPM Marinette


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