Remember the Alamo

(Thanks to Brad Young, an Alamo Engine Historian from Saline, MI, who spotted some errors in this story.)

The Alamo engine was invented by George Beard of Angola, IN. The Alamo Company was organized on Dec. 5, 1900. Charles Rittenhouse was named manager, George Beard as Superintendent and William Kennedy as the financier. When Kennedy failed to come through with the needed capital, Rittenhouse and Beard took their offering several places before setting in Hillsdale, and with $25,000 the work of the Alamo Manufacturing Company was born in 1901.

Joining Rittenhouse and Beard as company directors were F.M. Stewart, Dr. Walter Sawyer and A.D. Stock, grandson of the original owner of Stock's Mill. According to Brad Young, the officers elected by the directors in April 1901 were A.D. Stock, President; Dr. Sawyer, Vice President; Charles Rittenhouse, Secretary; and Edward Prideaux, Treasurer.  In 1905, according to A.W. Pennock in 150 Years in the Hills and Dales, Vol. 1 the officers were: president, A.D. Stock; Vice President, Dr. Sawyer; secretary/general manager, E.A. Dibble; treasurer, William Prideaux, and superintendent, M.F. Loomis.

The original factory was located on Welch Street (now part of Oak Street) with 35-50 employees. A factory was later built at the corner of South and St. Joe streets on the east side of the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad. A railroad spur was extended into the Alamo grounds for the receipt and shipment of the heavier commodities. 

The company made high-grade gas and gasoline engines, using its own products in the manufacturing process. Its large modern foundry sold engines not only all over the United States, but also in many foreign countries. By 1915 up to 260 men were employed, and annual sales were almost half a million dollars. A magazine ad for Alamo engines explained that "Its success is based upon a strict adherence to Quality—every engine has to be right in every respect before it leaves the factory."

It wasn't the quality of the engines but World War I that heralded the beginning of the end for the Alamo Manufacturing Company. The war interrupted a growing foreign trade, and the hoped-for war contracts never materialized. Following the war, the development of cheap electric power nudged the gasoline-powered engines aside. The owners gamely tried to manufacture other products, but the effort failed.     

Through the years the building on South Street housed General Machine, Tecumseh Products, Hillsdale Steel Products, Essex Wire Corp. and American Copper and Brass. But it will always carry a memory of its first use. Passers-by today can see the raised letters identifying the building as "ALAMO."

JoAnne P. Miller