Nelson Brothers Company History
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The casting letter on the cylinder would coincide with the exact
model, as the main difference between most Jumbo and trade-name
models was the separate cylinder and base castings on the Jumbos.
The trade-name models were all one-piece. The official Nelson model
and serial number on many engines is stamped on the face of the
pulley-side flywheel. This is an important number, as some vendors,
like Smyth-Desspard and Gray, were allowed to put their own series
of serial numbers on the tag. Nelson serial numbers listed so far
range from a low of 158 on a model P to 19434 on a model TA pump
Some 400,000 Jumbo engines may have been produced. It appears at
this point that Nelson properly issued its serial numbers in order.
There may be a casting date stamped on the bottom edge of the base,
facing the skid. This stamp may have aided monitoring the
casting's curing period. If present, it would be the best way
currently to date a Nelson engine.
As more literature is obtained, and more Nelson owners list
their engines, it will become clearer in what years certain models
and configurations were offered. This will aid both the engine
dating and authentic restoration process. Colors also need to be
Some information on the beginnings of the Nelson Brothers
Company in Alma and Saginaw, Michigan in the early 1900s, including
a history of the Nelson family, was obtained from Mr. David Babcock
of Cass City, Michigan, who did some research several years ago.
More information is needed here also. The existence of Alma Engine
Co./Re-public Motor Trucks, also of Alma, tends to confuse early
I have concluded my investigation into the end of Nelson Bros.
with a recent trip to a company in Auburn, Indiana; the end of the
trail that the Nelson Company name, records, and repair parts
inventory followed after their bankruptcy sale in 1940. Mr. Dallas
Winslow, purchaser on that date, owned many similar companies and
repair parts businesses bought in or near insolvency. The story of
this man, millionaire philanthropist, and charismatic entrepreneur
of the time, would be an interesting biography itself.
Little was done with the Nelson inventory. As a result of
Winslow's various company consolidations in the late 40s, when
it was clear that no production of parts would take place, most
Nelson Company records, blueprints, and literature was burned. I
talked with the gentleman who remembers being told to burn barrel
after barrel of records from many of Winslow's holdings that
were no longer active. Indeed some of the surviving Nelson
documents now discovered show burns at the edges, attesting to the
narrowness of their escape.