The Lauson Legend
Dedicated to Producing Quality Products, John Lauson took this Company from Thought to
Although advertised as a Lauson, the solid-flywheel engines were apparently only sold through De Laval as the Alpha model.
"The Lauson Frost King is the highest priced
engine on the market and has no competition." So stated a
circa-1911 advertisement for the premier engine built by John
Lauson Mfg. Co. And though it sounds like hyperbole, it was
probably true. The Frost King had just taken the Gold Medal for the
second time in a Norwegian competition, and the official report
showed that the engine "will pay for itself in saving of fuel
running 700 days ..."
In the Genes
Among the skilled craftsmen to help establish the new community
of New Holstein, Wis., were the five Lauson brothers, who started a
repair and implement shop.
One of those brothers was John Lauson. When his father, Detlaff,
died when he was 14, John joined the newspaper machine shop. Two
years later, he was so well-regarded that his uncle George Lauson
and John Optenberg asked him to join them in a three-way
partnership to start a machine repair shop together, using a
windmill for power. A year later, in 1885, the plant was destroyed
Out of the ashes came the John Lauson and H. Optenberg and Co.
business, which specialized in repairing steam traction engines,
and also began making Uncle Sam steam traction engines. Twenty-five
were built by 1887. By this time, John was a first-class machinist
and repairman. At age 19, he bought out the Optenberg shares and
became sole owner of the renamed John Lauson Co.
Company employees were expected to be highly skilled, and it
showed in Lauson's products. All boilers were riveted and caulked
by hand, producing a quality far better than the then-contemporary
standard of air hammering.
Now John Lauson began to forge the direction he wanted for his
own company. The Uncle Sam was dropped, but steam boiler
production, heavy machinery repair and the manufacturing of sheet
metal products were continued. But John Lauson had another idea: He
wanted to build gas engines. Perhaps as part of a greater plan, his
brother Henry had been working in a gas engine manufacturing plant
in Chicago. In 1895, Henry, Jacob Schmidt and John incorporated as
the John Lauson Mfg. Co., and began planning for the first Lauson
gasoline engine. Spark ignition was practically unheard of at the
time, so the first Lauson used hot tube ignition. A brass tube
extended up from the cylinder, which was heated via a blow torch.
Once drawn into the cylinder, the fuel mixture was ignited by the
heat of the tube.
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