The early pioneer equipment manufacturers were never short of ideas to incorporate into their products. Take, for example, this early 1920’s road grader made by the Sawyer Massey Company of Hamilton.
Prior to this, graders were primarily pulled by horses, or later by steam rollers, an arrangement that was not only cumbersome but limited in its capability. How to make one with its own power was their problem, unable to develop their own power unit, transmission and drive axle.
Sawyer Massey grader with Fordson tractor power unit
What evolved was quite original and effective, and although the concept was only used for some ten years in production, it enabled them to take grader development to the next stage. A standard farm tractor, whose development had reached the stage where they were no longer huge gasoline engine conversions of a steam traction engine, was built into the rear portion of the grader. With the rear wheels and drive axle left in place to power the grader, the front axle of the tractor was removed and replaced with a supporting bracket.
Initially, a Fordson tractor was used, as shown above, and later a McCormick Deering tractor, a product of the International Harvester Company took its place.
Sawyer Massey grader with McCormick Deering power unit
Bingo, a first for Ontario, a self-propelled grader
For more, see my book Steam Engines and Threshers
There are still a few octopus like monsters to be found in old house basements but by and large, the present generation have never seen one of these old gravity type hot air furnaces.
Until the late 1880’s, most houses were “heated” by means of a cast iron stove fueled by wood. One of Canada’s major stove manufacturers was the London, Ontario company, McClary Manufacturing Ltd. Stoves were actually only one product out of hundreds produced by this company who turned out tin-ware products for every possible use in the home and workshop. Their factory grew until it occupied the whole block at York and Wellington in downtown London, employing over 700 persons by 1900.
Factory fresh McClary Sunshine furnace ready for ducts to be added
Around 1890, McClary began to build “central air” furnaces, a cast iron stove surrounded by a galvanised housing from which sprouted large round ducts carrying hot air to each of the rooms in the house. With no fan, air movement was by convection in which the hot air rises. Iron grills in the floor led to even larger ducts that carried the cold air, by gravity, back to the furnace which was usually installed in the basement. After a few years of slow selling builders were, by 1900, adopting this type of furnace in their new house construction and soon McClary was supplying furnaces for whole streets of houses all across the country. They were extremely inefficient by today’s standards but were a miraculous addition to the home owner of 1900.
old mcclary furnace
I can still recall in the mid 1950’s, my wife-to-be’s father doing his nightly chore on his octopus furnace before retiring to bed. He would descend to the basement and for the next five minutes the house would resonate with clanging as he dragged the ashes out, stirred and re-stoked the coal fire, to ensure that it would continue to ward off the winter cold until morning.
Read more in my book Where Did They Go.