Racine Remembers: The Pierce Engine Company

Pierce

An 1898 Racine-produced Pierce Engine Company standing gas engine is now a cornerstone artifact in the Museum’s Racine County’s Spirit of Innovation: People, Their Ideas, and the World exhibit. This half-ton of cast iron was once the power source for the Renak blacksmith shop in Caledonia, and was donated to the Museum by Del and Marge Renak.

Andrew J. Pierce arrived in Racine, Wisconsin in 1887, at 28 years of age, from Rochester, New York. Within three years, he was in charge of gas engine production at Racine Hardware Manufacturing Company. By 1892 he had organized the Racine Gas Engine Company, which then became the Pierce Gas Engine Company. Standing and marine engines were the company’s primary products, They also produced made-to-order lake-going launches to be powered by the marine engines.

By 1895 Pierce began dabbling in the horseless carriage arena by motorizing a surrey. He further experimented over the next several years, until in 1904 he launched his own line of automobiles, the Pierce-Racine.

According to the Standard Catalog of American Cars:

“The first Pierce-Racine was a single-cylinder 8 hp water-cooled runabout with planetary transmission, chain drive and wheel steering. He sold 25 of them in 1904, and double that number in 1905 when a 16 hp twin was added to the line.”

In 1909 the Company reorganized as the Pierce Motor Company. The J.I. Case Threshing Machine Company was a prominent stockholder. In 1910 the Pierce Motor Company was acquired by Case, and the Pierce-Racine became the Case automobile.

Moving the Pierce

pierce moving bwThe 1,000-pound Pierce engine was a feat to move into the Museum. We first turned to RHM Board Member Ollie Nielsen who put us in touch with Tony Rossi and Rick Leonard from Rossi Construction. After studying the building and the engine, Rossi Construction developed a plan that entailed a crane, ramps and pulleys to guide the engine into place. Acme Construction was brought on board for additional help.

© Racine Heritage Museum – The Outlook Newsletter

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Denise Lockwood
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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.