Geiser Manufacturing Company
Ask the Man Who Owns One
By Collections Curator Ruth Bitner
Geiser engine at the Saskatoon WDM
Back in the early 1850s, Peter Geiser of Smithburg, Maryland made history
when he built his first thresher. Some say he was the inventor of the
threshing machine and his name should be as familiar as John Deere’s or
Cyrus McCormick’s of reaper fame.1
Competitors were not long getting on the thresher bandwagon, but Geiser beat them in 1855 competitions. With his success, other companies got interested in negotiating manufacturing rights.2 In 1860, Geiser moved his operation to Waynesboro, Pennsylvania and set up shop to build threshers. George Frick, Geiser’s neighbour from Maryland, had also moved to Waynesboro and the companies founded by these men were closely connected. Frick built all kinds of machinery including engines, and for a time, Geiser’s threshers.
By the early 1880s, Geiser decided that his company would build its own engines. Why let Frick or someone else make money off the demand for engines to power his threshers?3 Geiser lured engine builders away from another company and set them to work. The new engine was named Peerless. The Geiser Manufacturing Company was a successful operation for years as a builder of Peerless threshers, steam engines, steam plows, saw mills, road rollers, hay presses and later on, gasoline engines.
Geiser’s 1910 catalogue featured 64 pages of illustrations, specifications and testimonials. Under the heading “A Satisfied Customer is the Best Possible Advertisement,” the company declared,
“If we are not doing as much talking about our machinery as some manufacturers, not using as much printers’ ink, it is because our machinery does its own talking and its own advertising...A ‘Peerless’ Outfit is a money-maker for its owner. Ask the man who owns one.”4
No fewer than 12 different sizes and classes of engines were available in
1910, along with various models of separators, portable and stationary gas
engines, a hay press, fuel and water wagon, and saw mill.
In 1912, Geiser sold out to Emerson-Brantingham who continued to build the Geiser Peerless line of traction engines and separators. The Great Depression spelled the end for Geiser, as it did for dozens of other machinery manufacturers.
The Western Development boasts three Geiser steam traction engines. All three are the company’s largest, the 35 - 120 HP. The Yorkton WDM engine was used in the Togo area of Saskatchewan. It is on exhibit at Yorkton.
There are two Geiser engines at the WDM in Saskatoon; one is operated at Pion-Era and other special events. It was used originally as a demonstrator by a dealer in Winnipeg, then sold to D.D. Fehr, an implement dealer and farmer in Haskitt, MB. A year later, Fehr sold the engine to Jacob Bartsch of Warman, SK. Bartsch plowed, threshed and moved the odd building with the Geiser. About 1940 the engine was sold and took on a new life, operating a sawmill near Garrick, SK.
The second Geiser engine in Saskatoon started its working life about 1907 in Kansas where it broke 2,400 acres. The owner, Jesse Crosby, then shipped it to Warren, MB where it broke some 14,000 acres of prairie and threshed over a half-million bushels of grain. The next stop for the Geiser was Landis, SK where it was used for breaking and threshing until 1928. The Geiser’s final journey was to the Western Development Museum. The engine is currently in storage at the Museum’s Curatorial Centre in Saskatoon.
Be sure to stop in at any of the four Saskatchewan Western Development Museum branches where you may see machines like the Geiser that turned prairie into farmland. Better yet, plan your visit during one of the Museum’s summer shows where you may see engines in action. A warm welcome awaits.
1. Eshleman, W.J., The Iron Man Album, January -
February, 1970, p. 3
2. Ibid, p. 4
3. Ibid, p. 6
4. The Geiser Manufacturing Company Inc. Peerless 1910 catalogue, p. 3 (copy in the Potter collection, WDM library)
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