The following article was written and kindly contributed by the late Dave Dickinson. The article and all photos are © 1999 Dave Dickinson, all rights reserved. 2004 The rights are now held by the estate of Dave Dickinson.

 

A recent visit to the doctor resulted in another warning to walk or swim or perform aerobic exercise. Supposedly this may extend my life well into old geezer-dom. As far as the doctor is concerned, cranking stubborn engines and carrying pails of water do not qualify as acceptable exercise. Nor does the doctor want to know that I already weigh less than any stationary engine I own. Because of this I am foregoing the noon meal today. Instead of eating a high calorie, cholesterol-loaded meal, I am forced to idle away my time gazing sadly across the street to a Dickie's Donuts outlet. You have my doctor to blame for me finding the time to write this article about some Friends in Australia, New Zealand, and Tasmania.

 

11_220_333 Front cover of the 1912 Friend Catalogue. The spray rig pictured shows as 1909 or 1910 water cooled engine. Not the long poles used to deliver spray up into the trees.
There came a day, about ten years ago, when I decided that I would enjoy collecting and restoring old agricultural gasoline engines. My decision was perhaps due to that part of the male aging process which can be best summed up by the popular wifely lament: "the older the boys, the more expensive their toys!" I entered the hobby at a time when old engines were becoming a bit pricey – with one exception. There was a locally made engine with only one flywheel that was easily and cheaply had. It didn't appeal to most collectors. (You know how men are! They like flywheels in pairs.) The engines were throttle-governed, lacking the ability to sing that distinctive song of the make-and-break ignition system. Because of these reasons, local hedge rows harbored many such abandoned engines and their companion spray rigs. My karma had led me to this unusual and unwanted brand the Friend. It was an under-dog, shunned by other collectors; disdained for its single flywheel and its single-minded purpose to win the war against bugs.

 

 

front front front
Front, rear, and pump-side views of the 1912 Friend "Western" motor-pump. Note the hinged crankcase cover shown in the centre photo and the pump pressure chamber in the right hand photo. Compare them to the remnants of the Metters motor-pump on Ron Luck's circa 1922 spray rig.

 

My collecting of Friend engines got off to a fast start. As others learned of my interest, it was not uncommon for me to come home to a rusty engine dropped in my driveway. People began to realize that I'd even pay money for them. As my interest in Friend engines became known, the phone calls began. Others were anxious to sell their scrap iron to me at a good price. Three complete engines for $100 was a good deal all around. A deer hunter found a complete spray rig, engine, pump, wagon, and tank remnants well back in the woods. Twenty-five dollars was the asking price from a farmer who clearly doubted my sanity. Living in close proximity to the center of manufacture provided easy access to a number of derelict engines and pumps, ("Motor-pumps" as Friend called them). My collection expanded rapidly as did my knowledge of the significance of this locally based little company who once developed international markets.

 

Which shall it be? "Which shall it be?" Bugs grew big here in western New York before Friend came along. The drawing drawing does not well show the group of dimunitive farmers trying to chase the monster out of their field with rocks and clubs.
The Friend Manufacturing Company was formed in the small village of Gasport. Gasport sits on the south bank of the old Erie Canal in western New York. Thirty miles to the west is heard the perpetual thunder of Niagara Falls. After passing Gasport and the five canal locks of Lockport, the Erie Canal does all it can to avoid the mighty cataract, turning sharply south to find its way to Buffalo and Lake Erie. North of Gasport lies the Lake Ontario plain, a long narrow strip of land famous for production of apples and other tree fruit. Some of Gasport's first settlers were members of the Society of Friends, a religious denomination more commonly known as Quakers. Most everyone grew fruit trees and vegetables.

 

In the early 1890's a couple of mechanically talented Quaker brothers named Hull started a bicycle repair and manufacturing business. It appears, however, that much of their business involved repairing tools and machinery broken by their neighbors. Dominant among their repair work were hand operated pumps cobbled up to spray pesticides. By l895, the Hull brothers had designed and perfected their own hand operated pumps specifically made to spray chemicals. Taking to heart their Quaker faith, the Hulls called their new firm the "Friend Manufacturing Company". They and their hand sprayers soon won an excellent reputation for quality, service, and fair dealing.

 

Friend sprayer ad Friend manufacturing company apparently were too efficient for the birds. This advertising came in the form of an early ink blotter.

 

By 1900, the Hull Brothers realized that the fruit growing industry was being limited by the inefficient spraying of pesticides. Increased yields and improved fruit quality were being blocked by . . . those offensive bugs. The inventors addressed this problem by experimenting with the linkage of a gasoline engine to one of their hand powered spray pumps. The contraption worked, delivering more spray and permitting more acreage to be covered in a given day . . . with much less human effort. Friend Manufacturing Company's production and sales of gasoline engine powered spray rigs sky-rocketed: 1 in 1901, 2 in 1902, 6 in 1903, 14 in 1904, and by the end of 1910 over 770 produced, at least some of which found their way to Australia and New Zealand.

 

Friend factory Friend Manufacturing Company started life in a 14 by 30 foot shed in 1895. By the early 1920's Friend had grown to dominate the eastern side of the Village of Gasport. In the distance is the ribbon of the New York State Barge Canal, official name for the old Erie Canal. Friend spray rigs left Gasport not by canal but by railroad, some bound for California and thence to Australia and New Zealand.

 

The period 1901-1910 must have been an exciting time as the little company grew in pursuit of a world market. Design improvements came rapidly. For a time the Hull brothers flirted with the general purpose stationary engine market. Advertising emphasized that a Friend spray rig engine could also be dismounted from the pump to power saws to cut firewood, grinders for making livestock feed, pumps to pump water. An extra long crankshaft on the pump side of the engine allowed for the installation of a belt pulley. Pre-1910 engines occasionally show up with two flywheels. Whether this was a company modification or farmer- invented is unclear. Although the first Friend engines were air-cooled, the Hull brothers soon designed an open-hopper water cooled engine. In a nice piece of engineering, the air-cooled cylinder could be removed and replaced with a water cooled hoppered cylinder in about 15 minutes with removal of four bolts. Ignition timing was not altered. It appears that, by 1910-1912, the air-cooled engine was discontinued altogether. It was too prone to over-heating. Soon, Friend ceased trying to market a multi-use engine. Thereafter, the Hull brothers concentrated on doing what they did best. They produced world class agricultural sprayers. . .to win the war on bugs.

 

Friend sprayer ad Friend's 1909 and 1910 catalogues both featured this photo, purportedly of two growers from South Australia using a Friend sprayer. The engine can be identified as an air cooled model.

 

The Friend Manufacturing Company of Gasport, New York was exporting agricultural sprayers to Australia and New Zealand prior to 1910. That surprised me. Such information indicated two things:
a) a fair amount of fruit must grow there in your part of the world, and
b) bugs "down under" were a problem well over eighty years ago. I had no idea that Friend's war on bugs had allies in such far-off places. But there on page eleven of Friend's 1910 catalogue was a photo of unnamed Aussie farmers. They seemed pleased with their made-in-America sprayer from New York State. . .happy warriors with a new weapon. We can be sure that the Hull brothers were proud that their inventions were improving the growing of quality fruit around the world.

 

My second Friend My second "Western" model pulled from the hedge row. Mice took up residence in the crankcase. Someone put the darned thing out of its misery with a .22 calibre bullet to the carby. (Luckily they did not use something like my old 1907 .303 British Enfield. I was able to save the carby). Pump brackets are clearly visible as are the hinges for the crank cover, cover removed in this photo.

 

As the Great War of 1914-1918 raged, the Hull brothers used their talent for design and innovation to great advantage. As American industry focused on war material, Friend Manufacturing Company used the down time to develop new concepts and machinery for the fruit industry. As the War came to a close, in 1916, Friend introduced in its "Nu-System" sprayers. Crank cases were sealed to keep dirt out and a constant internal oil bath in place. More powerful engines and high pressure pumps did away with cumbersome long poles to lift spray nozzles into the tops of trees. Friend invented the hand-held wand that they called the "Spra-gun". When coupled with a Friend high pressure pump, the three foot long spray gun could blast a stream of pesticide into the tops of the highest trees. The Friend "Nu-System" revolutionized orchard spraying. While larger Friend sprayers used multi-cylinder water cooled engines (Model A Ford engines being popular hereabouts as an option), Friend continued to use their own single flywheel engines until 1937. For a few years after that Stover engines were commercially used on smaller Friend sprayers. These gave way to PTO shafts bringing power directly back from the tractor. Friend Manufacturing Company continued to be a force in American agricultural sprayer design and manufacture until the l980's. Thereafter the Company's fortunes declined. In November, 1997 the contents of the headquarters building of Friend Manufacturing Company were sold at public auction. Soon thereafter, the old building was also sold, bringing an end to the Company whose founders invented the gasoline powered agricultural sprayer.

Just prior to the sale of the remaining Friend Manufacturing Company building, the owners invited me to take any remaining records that might interest me. Among these were old ledgers detailing the serial numbers of sprayers and to whom they were sold. The extant ledgers begin with the serial number of rigs assembled and sold in 1927. Although a scan of 1927 - 1937 shows no units recognizable as being sold to Australia, a significant number were exported to the New Zealand Fruit Growers. The models sold to New Zealand bracketed the various types of Friend sprayers from those powered by single cylinder flywheel engines to the large units powered by four cylinder engines. Later entries in this range of years curiously lists the purchasers as "Friend Company - New Zealand Fruit Growers". Did NZFG act as a dealer for Friend Manufacturing Company products?

By 1910 Friend claimed to have sold over fifty hand and powered sprayers in South Australia. By 1912, the number had risen to over one hundred fifty. Lack of available catalogues or Friend's curious failure to mention further sales in Australia prevent us from measuring the volume of Friend exports there. When serial number registers begin in 1927, there is no further recognizable export of Friend sprayers to Australia, unlike the case with nearby New Zealand. Did a domestically produced Australian sprayer supplant the popularity of the United States-made Friend sprayers? It appears that the answer to such a question may be both "yes and no".

References to the export of Friend spray rigs appear to have ceased after 1912. In their l912 catalogue Friend introduces a newly designed bigger engine which they designate as the "Western". It's a chunky looking engine with a big hopper. The crank case is protected but not sealed by a cover hinged at the rear. Main bearing caps are still individually cast, rather than formed as an integral part of the crankcase cover such as found in post-1916 models. Unlike Friend engines before and after, its water hopper is cast together with its cylinder head in a single piece. In other respects it is a traditional Friend engine. The "Western" was only made for three or four years, roughly 1912 - 1915. There was no governor. As with earlier Friend engines, speed control was by manual throttle adjustment.

 

Friend Western Spray Rig Metters Spray Rig The left hand photo shows the Friend Western Spray Rig, and the right hand photo shows the 1922 Metters Spray Rig from respective catalogues. (Thanks to Ron Luck for a copy of the 1922 Metters catalogue).

 

After one of my articles on Friend Manufacturing Company appeared in the United States – produced Gas Engine Magazine, Monty Bunnett and Ron Luck of South Australia corresponded with me about Ron's Metters spray rig. Ron was kind enough to send several photos and a copy of an August l922 catalogue of Metters "Nufrend" spraying outfits. Metters Limited invited the public to inspect their "Made in Australia" sprayers at their 142 Rundle Street, Adelaide showroom. In Ron’s letter he quickly made the point that the Metters spray rig of 1922, particularly the engine and pump design, much resembled Friend sprayers of 1910 vintage. The name cast into the pressure chamber of the pump, "Nufrend", was certainly another strong clue of a probable relationship between Friend and Metters.

 

Ron Luck's Friend A close up of Ron Luck's spray rig made by Metters Ltd. The engine's cylinder (barrel)-hopper unit has been removed, but base, flywheel and pump remain on the rig. (Photo © Ron Luck).

 

When Ron and I corresponded some six years ago I did not have access to a 1912 Friend catalogue. In November 1997, I acquired several old catalogues at the Friend auction, among them one of the 1912 editions. While surfing the web last spring I stumbled on the web site for Steam & Engine of Australia [Ed: :-)]. It re- awakened my interest in the Friend-Metters connection. When comparing Ron's Metters photos to the "Western" engine and pump advertised by Friend in 1912, the similarity became readily apparent. I poured over the Metter's catalogue for some acknowledgement that Metters of Adelaide was allied to Friend of Gasport. There was none. Yet observation and rational thought dictated the hypothesis that Friend Manufacturing Company of Gasport had struck a deal with Metters to permit Metters to produce a near- clone of the Friend 1912 "Western" style spray rig. The use of the brand name "Nufrend" by Metters and the Friend use of "NuSystem" after 1916 also appeared otherwise too coincidental or too blatant on Metters' part for any patent infringement. Metters' proud "Made in Australia" advertising perhaps gives a clue to a marketing strategy based on an increasing sense of Australian nationhood following the conclusion of World War I. (I apologize for a poor understanding of Australian history and would welcome any comment the preceding sentence might generate.) It may be that World War I, in part, caused Friend to seek an Australian manufacturer, given increasing demand there. It may be that Metters sought a license to use Friend design patents to launch a domestic line of sprayers.

 

Metters Multi Purpose This engine is a Metters produced multi-purpose engine. It varies from the Metters engine used on the spray rigs with the addition of a second flywheel and the marked absence of a cast-in-base bracket to which the pump bolted. Although pre 1910 Friend pumps were bolted to the engine, they rested on their own individual base. In 1910 and after, the engine base casting included a heavy bracket on which to mount the pump. Many old Friend engines found today show cracks and welds on or near the bracket. The Metters above clearly shows the hinged crank cover and same general appearance as a Friend "Western" model.

 

 

Ron Luck's Metters Spray Rig Another view of Ron Luck's Metters Spray Rig. Careful viewing will show where the cylinder of the engine bolted onto the base and protruded from the crankcase. Slightly lower and to the left, the pump bracket makes a right angle off the base. The bull gear, driven by the crankshaft gear inboard of the flywheel, transmits power to the scotch yoke that drives the horizontal pump pistons.

 

It would be interesting to know if Metters sprayers found their way to New Zealand. Given the large number of Friend units shipped from Gasport to "Friend Company - New Zealand Fruit Growers", my guess is that Metters sprayers will not be found in New Zealand due to marketing agreements between Friend and Metters. Information to support or refute that hypothesis also would be appreciated.

Time, for Friend Manufacturing Company in Australia, seems to have stopped by 1922, possibly earlier. Although Friend discontinued production of its "Western" model about the time that World War I began, the design took on new life in the Australian - produced Metters "Nufrend" sprayers. In some way not well understood today, these two companies apparently joined forces in the battle of the bug. The front page of Metters' 1922 catalogue states it clearly:

"Spraying is fast becoming the chief essential to successful fruit-growing. Without systematic spraying, both the trees and fruit are often destroyed by insect and fungus diseases; and in every case the fruit is certain to be inferior, the yield will be small, and a large percentage of the fruit will be stunted, rough or wormy.
By destroying or preventing the development of these insect and fungus enemies of plant life, spraying removes the one common cause of crop failure." (Metters Ltd., August, 1922)

More information about Metters engines, pumps, and spray rigs would be most welcome here. Data on Friend hand and engine powered pumps found in Australia would also be happily received. Should any of you folks decide to visit Niagara Falls and have room in your luggage for a Metters engine and pump, I'd be glad to give the first person to deliver one, a corresponding Friend unit to take back home as a souvenir. By the way, now Friend engines have become quite pricey, too!

David L. Dickinson 6190 Keller Avenue Newfane, New York 14108-9508 USA

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[Ed: I have to thank Dave for providing such a well prepared informative article for Steam & Engine. It is always pleasing when a reader of this site chooses to submit an article for publication. Dave retains all rights to the words and images on this page. Please do not reproduce it without first contacting him and obtaining his permission. Sadly, Dave passed away on July 13th 2004 (thanks to Michael Guy for letting me know). Dave had an immeasurable knowledge on the Friend engines and I once met him in the US. He  will be sadly missed by our his wive Beth, his family and friends, and our engine community]