F&J Logo


Much of the information in the following article was gleaned from a series of articles written by Verne W. Kindschi and published in issues of Gas Engine Magazine during the 1960's and 1970's. Links to additional information and photographs about specific models of engines are provided throughout the article; these lead the reader to Nick Lozzi's website at www.oldengine.org/members/lozziF&J Museum
Direct descendants of John A. Johnson sponsor a website for F&J enthusiasts. This may be accessed at www.fullerandjohnson.com Also, members of the Badger Steam & Engine Club built and maintain a F&J Museum at Baraboo, Wisconsin. 

Finally, Verne W. Kindschi, the source for much of the information below, has written a book about the F&J Company--The Fuller & Johnson Story II; A Brief History of the Fuller & Johnson Manufacturing Company. The book can be purchased through the F&J website cited above.
The Fuller & Williams Company--later to become the Fuller & Johnson Company--was founded in 1840. This firm sold farm machinery. John A. Johnson joined the company in 1870.

John A. JohnsonJohn Andre Johnson was born on April 15, 1832, on a farm in the south of Norway. In 1844, John and his family immigrated to the U.S. They settled in Walworth County, which is in the southern part of Wisconsin. In 1852, the Johnson family moved to Dane County, Wisconsin, to continue their farming. In the meantime, John had worked very hard to put himself through school, as the Johnson family was very poor. During the summers he worked for $3 a month, plus his room and board; during the winter he went to school and continued to work for his room and board. When the Johnson family moved to Dane County, it was to be John's last move.

At age 22, John started to farm for himself; also, during the winter, he taught school and sold farm machinery to supplement his income. During these early days, he was also--in turn--tax assessor, justice-of-the-peace, township supervisor, township chariman and member of the Dane County Board. In 1856, he was elected to the Assembly of the State Legislature on the Republican ticket, which office he held until 1870. At this time he became an agent for the Fuller & Williams Company, selling farm implements. When John later became a partner in the company, it was his personal qualifications--not his money--which enabled him to do so. The company then became known as the Johnson Fuller Company.

In 1872, John was elected State Senator on the Republican ticket, and he held this office until 1874. During these two years, he continued to sell machinery for the Johnson Fuller Company.

In 1880, John A. Johnson, Morris E. Fuller and several others purchased the Madison Plow Works and began to manufacture farm machinery. In 1882, at a stockholders' meeting, John A. Johnson and Morris E. Fuller were elected directors, and the company was named the Fuller & Johnson Company (F&J). From this time on, F&J experienced steady growth. The company built plows, corn planters, wagons, mowers, cultivators, harrows, sulky rakes, feed mills and tobacco machinery, amongst other things. The F&J Company held many patents on these machines.

In 1887, of the 2013 shares of stock, John A. Johnson held 709 shares, and Morris E. Fuller held 669. In 1882, the company had 50 employees; by 1900, this number had grown to 400.

In 1887, in one corner of the F&J shops, the Gisholt Company was founded by Mr. Johnson to produce tools to manufacture machinery. This sideline expanded rapidly until 1889, when it split off from F&J, with John A. Johnson as president. In 1890, the Gisholt Company moved to a new plant across the street from F&J. The Gisholt Company was named after Mr. Johnson's aunt and uncle, who remained in Norway.

Work on a gas engine began in 1887, when Mr. Johnson hired a student named Frank D. Winkley, who was responsible for the development of the engine. In 1901, the Gisholt Company introduced 1 1/2, 3 and 6 HP oil-cooled "Frost-Proof" engines called Madison Gas Engines. By 1903, the engines were re-rated to 2, 3 1/2, and 6 HP. These engines were heavily built, with large split-hub flywheels, enclosed crankcases, and hit-or-miss governors with the weights in large cam gears. Fuel pumps fed overflow mixers. Dual ignition systems incorporated hot tubes and electric ignitors. The hot tubes were discontinued on later engines. The two larger engines had mechanically-operated intake and exhaust valves conected by pull-pushrods to single cams. (See Oil-Cooled Engines)F&J Oil-Cooled Engine

The unique enclosed, oil-based, cooling systems utilized cast-iron steam radiators, with pipes running to the engines' cooling jackets. The engines had expansion tanks and some also were fitted with circulation pumps. The cooling systems were filled with light-weight mineral oil. Oil-cooled engines offered the advantage that oil doens't freeze in the wintertime; however, these engines were bulky, heavy, and expensive. Madison Gas Engines were produced until 1904, when the Engine Division was sold to the F&J Company, and the engines were sold under the F&J name from then on. At that time, Mr. Winkley was employed by the F&J Company. Approximately three or four thousand oil-cooled engines were built.

Mr. Sever Thingstead, a longtime F&J employee, stated that many oil-cooled engines were shipped to the Dakotas and Minnesota, where they were used to power grain elevators. They were popular for that purpose, as they did not give off steam which mixed with the grain, as did the hopper-cooled engines. Oil-cooled engines incorporated the oil in closed, radiator-based systems; water-cooled engines utilized open hoppers.

John A. Johnson died on November 10, 1901; his son, Frederick A. Johnson, assumed his father's position in the company.

F&J Vertical EngineIn about 1905, the F&J Company introduced vertical, water-cooled engines and horizontal, water-cooled engines to sell along with its oil-cooled models. Water-cooled engines were lighter and cheaper to produce. The vertical, water-cooled engines were produced in 1 and 2 1/2 HP sizes. The water hoppers, heads and blocks were cast in one piece, and the fuel tanks were housed in the cast-iron bases, with fuel pumps to supply the mixers. The engines were heavy; the 1 HP weighed 540 pounds and the 2 1/2 HP weighed 700 pounds. These engines all used M&B ignition systems, with low-tension coils and batteries. Most of the engines built were 1 HP models. Approximately 2,000-3,000 vertical, water-cooled engines were built. (See Vertical Engines) The vertical, water-cooled engines were not as popular as the horizontal, water-cooled engines.

The horizontal, water-cooled engines were known as "Double Efficiency" engines. They incorporated the same cast-iron bases as the oil-cooled engines, with a single-casting block and water hopper bolted on top of each. The horizontal engines were available in 3, 6, 8 and 10 HP sizes.  Approximately 8,000-10,000 of these engines were built. Large "Double Efficiency" engines were produced in 12, 15, 18 and 20 HP sizes and were mounted on steel trucks. These were side-shaft engines--the only ones that the F&J Company ever made. Approximately 2,000 large Double Efficiency engines were built.  (See Double Efficiency Engines)

F&J Farm Pump Engine 1Frank D. Winkley, the inventor of the oil-cooled engine, was the Chief Engineer for the F&J Company. He also invented and patented an air-cooled, gasoline farm pump engine, for which he received a royalty of $1 per engine from the F&J Company. The pump engine was released in 1909; it had two exhaust ports and was waterproofed. Approximately 56,000 farm pump engines were built between 1909 and 1952--more than any other single type of engine produced by the company. The engine was unique in that it rotated in the opposite direction of most engines, had only one flywheel, incorporated two exhaust ports, and was rather strange looking. The basic design was retained throughout the long production period, with minor changes. These included adding printing to the flywheel, changing the base from partial wood to all-steel, attaching a steel battery box, moving the spark plug from the cylinder to the head, replacing the one-piece drawn fuel tank with one that soldered together, moving the grease cup from the connecting rod to the end of the drilled crankshaft outside of the engine, and extending the shield on the bevel gear to cover the lower half of the gear. Most of the pump-engines used four dry-cell batteries and high-tension coils; however, as early as 1917 , a high-tension, gear-driven magneto was available for an extra $30. During later years, most engines were equiped with Wico EK Magnetos. There were few changes to the mixer through the years--all were to the choking mechanism. The farm pump engine was rated at 1 1/2 HP and it ran at 500 RPM. The intermediate shaft rotated at 150 RPM, and the pumpjack moved up and down at 35 strokes per minute. The engine weighed 335 pounds; it was green (the same color as present-day New Idea Farm Implements), with a silver cylinder and head and yellow striping. In 1909, the pump engine with a battery ignition sold for $69.95; by 1917 the engine was listed at $85.00, and the last engines sold with Wico EK Magnetos were priced at $l79.95 in 1952. (See Farm Pump Engines)

F&J Farm Pump Engine 2The farm-pump engine had a second exhaust port on the bottom of the piston stroke, which was used primarily for cooling the engine. Approximately 90% of the exhaust gases exited through this bottom port; very little left the engine through the top exhaust valve. The exhaust valve was more beneficial for cooling the engine than for eliminating gases. Between times when the engine was firing, the top valve was held open, allowing cool air to be circulated in and out of the cylinder. Only the bottom exhaust port was outfitted with a muffler.

The farm-pump engines were used in a variety of applications. Although the basic application was with pump jacks to pump water from deep wells, the pumps were used on pressure pumps. force pumps, diaphragm pumps, and pumps on spraying rigs. There was also at least one company that utilized the engine with  bilge pumps on boats. During the early 1920's, three carloads of pump engines a week were shipped to Texas alone, where they were used to pump oil. Relative few pump engines were produced after 1932, and these were hand-built utilizing parts from the large inventory remaining after the F&J Company was sold.  

In 1924, the F&J Company introduced 32-volt light plants in two sizes--the Number eight with a 2 HP engine and the Number 15 with a 3 HP engine. The engines were throttling-governor types and were availabe to burn kersosene as well as gasoline. The generators were built by Western Electric, with parts of the control panels produced by General Electric. These light plants were sold under the F&J name and later also under the Western Electric name. With  batteries, the Number eight cost $460 and the Number 15 cost $605. In 1929, a heavy-duty power plant was offered for $855, with a choice of 32 volt or 110 volt generators at the same price. This unit with an automatic switchboard and its accessories cost $1,030. (See Light Plants)

The F&J Multimotor evolved from the basic farm-pump engine; it was not successful and few were built. The Multimotor was intended for belt-driven applications, such as operating cream separators, churning butter, turning grindstones, sawing wood, generating electricity, powering elevators, turning cement mixers, etc. The pump jack was removed, the engine was mounted on a different base, and pulleys were added. (See F&J Lawn Mowers) The primary reason that the engine didn't sell well was that it couldn't produce the same rated horsepower with belts as it did when geared down for use with pump jacks. (See Multimotor Engines)

F&J Engine 6The F&J Type JA engine was introduced later than the Multimotor; it, too, was based on the farm pump engine. The Type JA engine was more powerful than the Multimotor, because two heavy flywheels were added, and the engine produced its rated horsepower. However, it was not well received and very few were built. (See Model J Engines)

In 1912, both "Double Efficiency" and Model N engines were  being built. Eight to ten thousand "Double Efficiency" engines were produced. By 1914, most engines built were Model N engines. The Model N engine was available in 1 1/2, 2 1/2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 HP. By the middle of the first decade, thousands of Fuller & Johnson Model N and Model K engines had been sold. The Model N engine ran on gasoline, the Model K engine utilized kerosene. By 1913, more Model K engines were being sold than gasoline engines. Model K engines were available in sizes up to 25 HP. Model N and Model K engines were followed in later years by Models NA, NB, NC and ND gasoline engines and Models KA and NK kerosene engines.

F&J Model N EngineThe Model N engine was introduced in 1912 as the "Peoples Price" engine; it was renamed the Model N in 1913. The two engines were slightly different in that the Peoples Price engine had heavier flywheels and bolted hubs. Peoples Price engines were available in 1 1/4, 2 1/4 and 4 HP. (See Peoples Price Engines) Model N engines were eventually sold in 1 1/2, 2 1/2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 HP sizes. (See Model N Engines) The Model N was a hit-and-miss gasoline engine. The Model K engine was introduced in 1913; it was a throttling-governor kerosene engine. A few early Model K engines were built with hit-and-miss governors, but they did not run hot enough to burn kerosene efficiently unless they ran under full load. Model N Kerosene Engines) In 1914, the F&J Company released the largest Model N and Model K engines the Company every produced; these were 12 HP engines. All early Model N engines had full-cast bases; later engines were available with full-cast bases or shorter bases mounted on skids.

F&J Engine 2Up to 1914, F&J engines producing ten or more horsepower were Double Efficiency sideshaft engines. In 1914, the Company introduced Model K engines producing 15, 20 and 25 HP. These engines were different than the smaller engines; they were heavily built and had vertical, flyball governors instead of the horizontal, gear-driven flyball governors of the smaller engines (the 1 1/2 HP Model K had the governor weight in the flywheel). Model K engines incorporated the same basic block and ignition systems as Model N engines; only the carburator and governor systems were different. Model K engines were available in the same horsepower ratings as Model N engines, with the exception that the smallest Model K engine was the 2 1/2 HP engine. (See Model K Engines)  (See Model KA Engines)

F&J Engine 3Model N and Model K  engines were equipped with igniter ignition systems. Early engines were issued with five dry-cell batteries and low-tension coils. Around 1916, a low-tension, gear-driven magneto system was available at extra cost. Only a few of the early models were sold with magnetos; however, by 1920, at least half of the engines sold had magnetos, and by 1922 about 90% of the engines were shipped with magnetos. The F&J Company used magnetos from a variety of sources, including Sumpter, Elkhar, Split-dorf, Accurate, and Wizzard. Towards the end of production, a few Model N and Model K engines were sold with Wico EK magnetos and sparkplugs. Also, Model N and Model K engines with ignitors could be retrofitted with Wico Conversion Kits to update their ignitor systems to Wico EK and sparkplug systems.

 In late 1919, the F&J Company increased the RPM's on all of its engines by 50 RPM, and thereby increased the horsepower ratings on all of the engines except for the 1 1/2 HP Model N. The 2 1/2 HP became 3, the 4 HP became 5, the 6 HP became 7, and the 8 HP became 9. The 10 HP size was discontinued.

Approximately 58,000 Model N and Model K engines were built. They had excellent reputations and were very popular.

The Model NA was introduced in 1923 in 3, 5, 7, 9, and 12 HP sizes. Approximately 2,000 of these engines were built. (See Model NA Engines)

In 1924, the F&J Company released a new type of Model N 2 1/2 HP engine. In 1925, the RPM's on this engine were increased by 50 RPM, it was outfitted with a Wico EK magneto and spark plug, and it became the 3 HP Model NB. This engine had a smaller base and a wide-crowned flywheel, and the governor weight was in the flywheel. By midyear 1925, quantities of Model NB engines were being shipped regularly. Eventually, Model NB engines were available in 1 1/2, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 HP sizes. The Model NB was the company's first engine to be regularly outfitted with Wico EK magnetos and sparkplugs; although, the engine could be ordered with a battery system--either a coil and igniter system or a buzz coil and sparkplug system. The 1 1/2 HP Model NB was released in late 1925. Previously, all 1 1/2 HP engines were Model N's; the 1 1/2 HP engine was never available as a Model NA. The price of a 6 HP Model NB in 1929 ws $170. (See Model NB Engines)

F&J Engine 5The F&J Company introduced the Model NC in 1927. There were two types of this engine--one with a new disk flywheel available in 1 1/2, 2, 2 1/2 and 3 HP sizes and the other type with a spoke flywheel in 2 and 3 1/2 HP sizes. The Model NC with a spoked flywheel was similar to the Model NB, with slightly greater horsepower. Most Model NC engines were equipped with Wico EK magnetos and sparkplugs; however, the engine could be ordered with a battery/buzz-coil/sparkplug electrical system. The F&J Company discontinued using rotary magneto and igniter systems in 1925, after adopting Wico EK magnetos and sparkplugs.  All Model NC engines incorporated the governor weights in the flywheel. In 1929, the price of a 2 HP Model NC was $65, the 2 1/2 HP cost $84, and the 3 1/2 HP was priced at $108. The optional crankcase enclosure and an exterior oiler cost an additional $3. (See Model NC Engines)

The last hopper-cooled engine built by the F&J Company was the Model ND. It was released in early 1930. This engine had a disk flywheel and was available in 2, 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 HP sizes. The Model ND was quite similar to the Model NC in appearance; however, Model ND had a gear-driven flyball governor instead of the flywheel-mounted weights found on the Model NC. As with the Model NC, the Model ND was equipped with a Wico EK magneto and sparkplug; however, it could be ordered with a battery, buzz coil, and spark plug. Both the disk flywheel Model NC and the Model ND could be ordered with a tin-enclosed crankshaft. An engine with this option had a drip oiler and wiper outfitted to lubricate the rod bearing on the crankshaft. (See Model ND Engines)

The Model NK was issued in early 1930 in sizes 2, 2 1/2, and 3 1/2 HP. The Model NK was a throttling-governor, kerosene-burning engine which resembled the Model ND, with the exception of the mixer and governor systems. (See Model NK Engines)
The F&J Company built a small, one-cylinder, vertical, four-cycle, radiator-cooled engine for the Coldwell Lawn Mower Company of Newburgh, New York. These engines were designed by Coldwell and were used on Coldwell Model L mowers. A small 7 inch x 8 inch honeycomb radiator was used for cooling. Between 1923 and 1927, 3,255 of these engines were prduced.  (See Coldwell Lawn Mowers)
The years from 1912 to 1929 were the most prosperous for the F&J Company, with about 100 engines being produced each day by approximately 500 employees. The F&J Company made everthing for the engines, with the exception of the castings, which were poured by the Gisholt Company. Mr. Fred Stelter, former Production Foreman for the F&J Company, stated that the company's specifications were rigid. If a cylinder wall was .002 of an inch out of round, it was discarded. Mr. Stelter felt that the standards were overly strict; he built a 1 1/2 HP engine for his brother from discarded parts, and it was used for many years without problems. Mr. Stelter also indicated that the F&J Company produced items under contract with the U.S. Government during World War I, in order to obtain the raw material that was needed for the Company's own engines.

Mr. Sever Thingstead was employed by the F&J Company in 1901. During his long tenure with the company, he worked at almost all of the different positions involved with building engines. In 1916, Mr. Thingstead became the Final Inspector for the company. Each engine was run for at least one day after leaving the assembly line. Following this test run, Mr. Thingstead checked each engine for compression, timing, leaks, etc.

During 1928 and 1929, after much experimentation and retooling, the F&J Company introduced two and four-cylinder radiator-cooled engines. These were named Models AB, BC, BD, BE and BBE. This venture marked the beginning of the end for the company. Although the engines were of the highest quality, the company went deeply into debt to cover production costs. Mr. Thingstead said that $90,000 per model was spent on tooling and other development costs. Also, the Great Depression of the 1930's began before the engines went into production. The company's creditors became panicky, and, in 1932, the company had to sell their properties to make good on their debts. The last engine was shipped on March 9, 1932. (See Radiator-Cooled Engines)

F&J Engine 4During the final years of the F&J Company, the Johnson family sold most of its shares of F&J stock; however, the family retained its holdings of Gisholt Company stock. The Gisholt Company is now a division of Gidding & Louis; it produces machine tools such as automatic lathes, threading machines, balancing machines, etc.

After the F&J Company stopped production, all tools and equipment were sold to another firm, which also purchased the F&J name and the company's large inventory of parts. Mr. Thingstead was employed by this company. A few engines were built from the parts acquired from the F&J Company; some of these were shipped as late as 1951.

In 1947, Mr. Sever Thingstead and Mr. Albert J. West, both former employees of the F&J Company, purchased what remained of the Company They continued to sell parts and rebuilt a few engines. In 1953, Mr. West died and Mr. Thingstead continued to run the business by himself. Due to increasing overhead costs and the decline of the parts business, Mr. Thingstead terminated the company in 1954. He was first employed by F&J when he was eighteen years old, and he worked with that company and suceeding companies all of his life.

Approximatelly 180,000 engines were built by the F&J Company; these were shipped all over the United States and to many foreign countries.