Cummins Engine Co.

Introduction "He was a P.T. Barnum. He was [always] talking about things long before they could materialize."
– Don Cummins, describing brother Clessie, 1929
Clessie Cummins, age 20. About the time he went to work for the Irwin Family. Twentieth century American business history abounds with tales of ingenuity, persistence, and Joseph Irwin Miller would be hard to imagine, yet they pluck, often seasoned with some of the most improbable instances of chance. Selecting one story that truly stands out from the crowd might prove a fool's errand, but if pushed to choose, one that grew up amidst corn fields of south-central Indiana and over the next 100 years spread through 200 nations over six continents of the globe would have to be a leading candidate.

The most skilled novelist might be challenged to come up with a more unlikely cast of characters or set of circumstances or twists of plot. Our chief protagonist is short, slight, bespectacled tinkerer, barely out of his teens. As suggested in the quotes above, he came to embody the traits of both the most exuberant carnival barker and the most careful scientist.
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slide 3 Growing up in a poor family in the lower Midwest, he quit school in the eighth grade, circa 1904, but not before designing and constructing his own miniature steam engine and wireless telegraphy system plus a bean-shelling device that relieved the tedium of kitchen police duty.

It’s beyond knowing what would have become of Clessie Lyle Cummins had not his nimble mind triumphed over his slender 110-pound frame in coaxing to life the engine of a huge 1907 Packard touring car that belonged to a local banker in Columbus, Indiana. The banker, one William Glanton Irwin, was a hard-nosed middle-age bachelor who lived in the town’s largest house with seven other members of his four-generation extended family and had displayed considerable entrepreneurial skill in expanding the fortunes of and already prosperous clan.

What he shared with the younger man who would become his chauffeur/mechanic and business partner/surrogate (sometimes wayward) son was an interest in what made things go, whether they be motorized apparatuses, business venture, or human dreams.

The third impossible cast member--one who enters the stage just slightly later--is the bankers grand-nephew, a shy, stammering scholar, looked on by his peers at boarding school and college as an outsider. He is given to quoting classical sages, reading the New Testament in Greek, and playing Back of his Stradivarius violin, which he whimsically refers to as his “fiddle.”
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slide 4 Two men more different than Clessie Cummins and Joseph irwin Miller would be hard to imagine, yet they would become close friends and would help to lay, along with W.G.Irwin, the foundations of a business and technological empire.

The innovation that would cement the alliance between these disparate characters was a noisy, smoking, vibrating contraption that burned a thick, oily low-grade petroleum distillate which was ignited in its combustion chamber quite literally by hot air. At the time used mostly in stationary form to power heavy industrial equipment the device had been patented in 1892 by a German mechanical engineer named Rudolf Diesel and would be forever known by his name.

Diesel inexplicably vanished one September night in 1913 from a mail steamer crossing the English Channel from Antwerp to London. Murder and suicide have both been suspected, but after more than 100 years, the shroud of mystery remains tightly drawn.

Diesel’s design operated by compression ignition, i.e. mechanical compression by the piston increases the temperature of air in the cylinder to the point that it will spontaneously ignite fuel injected into the combustion chamber. By contrast, a gasoline engine relies on spark ignition--an electric spark is necessary to ignite the air/fuel mixture. The higher temperature and pressure created in a combustion-ignition (diesel) engine will extract more power from a given quantity of fuel, ensuring more efficient operation.
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slide 5 At the time of Diesel’s death, the first of his engines had just been installed in an ocean-going ship and another was just before being placed in a railroad locomotive. Glimpses of the future were present here, but a full view would be a long time coming.

Evoking an even more distant view, a road test had been attempted several years earlier in a European automobile and very limited use of diesels in trucks would be undertaken in Germany by the mid-1920s. However, there is no record of anyone in American trucking taking the idea of highway diesels seriously in the least at that early a date.

Conventional wisdom dictated that diesels were too heavy, too slow-turning and too locked into a very narrow range of engine operating speeds to be practical for highway use.
slide 6: An Itinerant Boyhood An Itinerant Boyhood and the Fruits of Chance W. G. Irwin and sister Linnie Irwin Sweeney One thing that seemed to distinguish Clessie Cummins all his life was an almost Zelig-like ability to fall into unexpected circumstances and be comfortable in them while routinely rubbing shoulders with the famous, the near-famous, the once-famous, and the one-day-to-be famous.This was facilitated to at least a slight degree from the very beginning by his barrel-hoops making father, Frank Cummins, moving the family--Clessie, his mother, and four younger sibling--from small town to small town in Indiana and Ohio looking for the best stand of elm trees/ Elm wood it seems was a prime requisite for producing the highest-quality hoops.

Clessie’s younger-years neighbors included at various times the engineer who had run the noted Civil War locomotive General in the Great Locomotive Chase; Dan Emmett, composer of the famous tune “Dixie” (“If I’d known to what use [Southerners] were to put my song, I’d be damned if I’d written it.”); and “General” Jacob Coxey, Ohio politician, who led a ragtag band of men in the first March on Washington in 1984 to protest unemployment in what was then the worst depression in American history.
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slide 7 Too good to neglect mention is the name of the general’s son and Classie’s playmate, Legal Tender Freeman Coxey, that moniker reflecting the strongly-held opinions of the day on monetary issues--free silver, bimetallism, paper currency, etc.

After the Cummins family settled for good in Columbus, Indiana., when Clessie was 15, and landed him in the world where he would spend the rest of his life, he became acquainted with the Remy brothers, whos company became Delco-Remy, subsequently part of General Motors; Quentin Noblitt and Frank Sparks, whos company Noblitt and Sparks eventually became Arvic Industries, at one time a larger employer in Columbus than Cummins Engines; the Reeves Brothers of Reeves Pulley Company, one of whom, Milton Reeves, dabbled in automobiles, building the sensational but commercially unsuccessful 8-wheel and 6-wheel Reeves Octo-Auto and Sexto-Auto, one of which Clessie claimed to have driven.

Milton Reeves, dabbled in automobiles, building the sensational but commercially unsuccessful 8-wheel and 6-wheel Reeves Octo-Auto and Sexto-Auto, one of which Clessie claimed to have driven.

In his youthful peregrinations about the Hoosier State---a locale that at the time rivaled Michigan as the center of the nation’s auto industry---Clessie also spent time working for the Marmon brothers, Howard and Walter, in Indianapolis, as well as Fred Tone, designer and builder with Harry Stutz of the unique American Underslung automobile. As a Marmon employee, Clessie became a pit crew member for Ray Harroun and the Marmon Wasp, winners of the inaugural 1911 Indianapolis 500.



slide 8: Clessie Meets the Family Clessie Meets the Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Family Jessie and Josefine Cummins Clessie's parents. Nephew Irwin Miller later opined in an unacharacteristically breezy letter that “Uncle” was just too lazy to find a wife. That could be the only time anyone used that word to describe W. G. Irwin. “Just too busy” seems likelier.

It’s also been hinted that the quietly dominant females in the household---mother, sister, nieces---were perhaps overly protective of W. G., that in their view there may not have been a suitable wife to be found. Then too, both Clessie Cummins and Irwin Miller commented at different times that W. G. Irwin, despite his formidable, sometimes gruff, exterior may really have been a very shy man.

Clessie was equally firm in his opinion that W. G. Irwin’s father, Joseph Ireland Irwin, the white bearded 84-year old patriarch of the extended Irwin-Sweeny-Miller family and Columbus’ wealthiest citizen, was not shy in the least. Joseph I. had come to Columbus in 1846 with 30 cents in his pocket

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slide 9 After three years of working 16-hour days in a general store, he had managed to save $15. Leveraging this into a $500 loan, he was able to buy a 30-acre tract of land at the edge of town.They proved the acorn from which grew a mighty oak. On the samel of the first quarter-acre lot. J. I. was able to recoup most of his initial investment.

During the Civil War he prospered by buying hogs and selling pork to the Union Army. Southern Indiana, however, was not altogether united in support of the Union cause. The pro-Confederate Knights of the Golden Circle marked Irwin for “removal” and a local gunsmith was selected to carry out the necessary duties.

As J. I. Irwin passed by the would-be-assassin’s shop, a rifle “accidentally” discharged, but the bullet, deflected by the window glass, passed through Irwin’s hat. Irwin could have sought retribution; instead he befriended the gun-smith. Realizing that the bungled plot could ruin the man’s business, he gave him a pension and a place to live.

This is perhaps the first recorded example of a wondrous strain of Christian charity and concern for the less fortunate that has continued to characterize---indeed, to define---the Irwin-Sweeney-Miller family. Clessie Cummins was a beneficiary of this family trait and so was the entire town of Columbus.
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slide 10 This story also illustrated the first observed link in a long chain of completely fortuitous occurrences that enabled the Cummins story to unfold as it did. The family fortune placed in the ground by J. I. and carefully cultivated over the next 60 years grew to include successful investments not only in banking, but in corn starch refining, food processing, natural gas production, short line and interurban railroads, and lead and zinc smelting, to mention only a few.

This story also illustrated the first observed link in a long chain of completely fortuitous occurrences that enabled the Cummins story to unfold as it did. The family fortune placed in the ground by J. I. and carefully cultivated over the next 60 years grew to include successful investments not only in banking, but in corn starch refining, food processing, natural gas production, short line and interurban railroads, and lead and zinc smelting, to mention only a few.

Classie’s mother, Josephine Cummins, was regular attendee of a Sunday school class at the First Christian Church in Columbus, taught by Linnie (Mrs. Z. T.) Sweeny, wife of the retired pastor and sister to W. G. Irwin.

Zachary Taylor Sweeney, like his father-in-law, J. I. Irwin, was a friendly, approachable man, but also one of great learning. It may come as a surprise that a Midwestern Disciples of Christ minister had also served as U.S. Counsul-General at Constantinople and as Imperial Ottoman Commissioner for the 1893 Chicago Exposition, but such career interpositions seemed to have been almost expected in the Irwin-Sweeney-Miller family.
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slide 11 The political influence accumulated by J. I. and W. G. Irwin is not without significance here. Both became influential men statewide. It also happens that Indiana native Benjamin Harrison was in the White House from 1889-1893.

J.I. Irwin and President Harrison were friends; Irwin convinced the President to appoint his son-in-law to the diplomatic position in Turkey. Just what the duties of the Imperial Ottoman Commissioner might have been is not clear.

Linnie and Z.T. Sweeney had lost their only son and only male member of his generation. Joseph Irwin Sweeney, in a drowning accident in 1900 at age 20. This event had great ramification. It gave Linnie Sweeney a tremendous resolve to do all she could to improve the lives of young men in the community and to see that they were subjected to the proper influences.

She grew to be particularly fond of Clessie Cummins; it was commonly believed that she saw reminders of her son in him. Many years later W. G. Irwin wrote to Clessie, “ Had it not been for our desire to have a place to develop the young men around Columbus, we should not have taken the [business] risks we did.”

So it was that one Sunday after teaching her class, Linnie Sweeney, who already knew something of Clessie’s mechanical inclinations, mentioned to Josephine that her brother had recently relieved his chauffeur for the insolent act of lighting a cigarette while driving. Might Clessie be interested in the job, she wondered?
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slide 12 As Clessie often told the story, when he first laid eyes on the tall, imposing W. G. Irwin with his very business-like mien, his usual aplomb deserted him. Irwin doubtless felt equally dismayed, if for different reasons. He immediately expressed doubt that the slight 19-year-old, who probably looked even younger, coulld crank that huge Packard engine and said as much.

Clessie harbored his own doubts---the matter had already raised his apprehensions---but he kept the doubts to himself and assured Irwin with all the bravado he could muster that it was “all in knowing the tricks.”

Half-galloping the four blocks to the Packard’s garage-abode to keep up with the much taller Irwin. Clessie wondered just what tricks he did need to know. He had intended to secure a Packard service manual before laying eyes on the car, but it was obvious Irwin was in no mood for delay.

Alas, as both had feared, Clessie couldn’t budge the engine. Just as Irwin turned in resignation, a thought occurred. Clessie recalled that he had rocked small 2-cycle boat engines back and forth against compression. Was there possibly a way to make that work with an engine this large? There was only one way to find out.

Grabbing a cloth and dipping it into the gas tank, he lifted the hood and squeezed a few drops of gasoline into the priming cup atop each cylinder. Closing the cup valves, he rocked the engine two or three times with the crank. He hopped into the driver’s seat, wiggled the spark advance and---presto---the mammoth engine roared to life!
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slide 13 ”I’d rather have a man any day who can use his head over his back,” shouted a beaming Irwin against the din of the engine. What Clessie didn’t fully realize at the time, and Irwin may never have, was that a near miracle had occurred. The odds against this trick succeeding with an engine this size was astronomical. Clessie later reckoned.

Like the bullet passing though J. I. Irwin’s hat, the story very well could have ended then and there. October 8, 1908 would remain a red-letter date in Clessie Cummins’ life, but it would not be the last time he pulled a rabbit out of his hat.

Over the next several years, Clessie became almost a member of the Irwin-Sweeney-Miller household. The family was not only charmed by his winning personality, they soon found that he could repair anything or solve any problem that would admit to a mechanical solution.

It’s not known whether W. G. Irwin admitted aloud that Clessie Cummins---eight grade education notwithstanding---was an engineering genius. But after catching the first hint of it that day in the family garage. He surely came to appreciate before much time had passed that Clessie had the makings of genius.

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slide 14 Clessie Cummins in the 1925 Packard with Cummins U-Model engine that he drove nearly 2,800 miles on a road trip From Indianapolis to the National Auto Show in New York City. This car is arguably one of the most significant vehicles in American automotive history. It paved the way for the modern highway diesel engine. Joseph I. Irwin in 1910, slightly less than two years after Clessie Cummins entered the family’s employ, but not before Clessie had learned many valuable lessons in bargaining and dealing with people as he drove the old gentleman around the country in the Packard tourer to attend to business and visit with cronies and friends. The patriarch’s mantle now descended upon W. G., doubtless every bit as shrewd as his father, but of a more reticent nature and perhaps more temperamental. Next Page slide 15 The last member of the dynasty’s founding generation was now gone, but 15 months prior to his passing, the first male member of the fourth generation had arrived. Linnie and Z. T. Sweeney’s elder daughter, Nettie, has married Hugh Thomas Miller in 1900.

Displaying the juxtaposition of talents and interests typical of the brood, Hugh Miller, also the son of a Disciples of Christ minister, was a college professor, a businessman, and a politician.

Noted for his erudition, he nonetheless processed enough of the common touch to win election to the Indiana General Assembly in 1902 and the lieutenant governor’s seat in 1904.

He was defeated for governor in 1908 and the U.S. Senate in 1914, but was given a very good chance of winning the state’s other Senate seat in 1916. The opportunity never arrived; he contracted tuberculosis and was forced to drop out of the race in December 1915. He thereafter led a quieter life, devoted to business, mostly at the Irwin Union Bank. He had just retired as chairman of the Cummins Engine Company when he died in 1947.

One daughter, Clementine, was born to Nettie and Hugh Miller in 1905, and on May 26,1909, Joseph Irwin Miller entered the world. Irwin Miller was to cast a long shadow---one that extended in living form into the 21st century and linger yet today.
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slide 16 Clessie and his second wife Stella in their later years, circa 1960s. They were married in late 1926 and remained happily together for over 40 years. They had one son, Clessie Lyle Cummins, Jr., born in 1931. From his earliest days, the boy knew Clessie Cummins; separated by 20 years, the two developed a relationship that could perhaps be best described as a combination of father/son and older/younger brother. Meanwhile, Clessie was starting a family of his own. On may 18, 1910, as Halley’s Comet streaked across the sky, Reverand Z. T. Sweeney married his 23-year old secretary, Ethel McCoy, to Clessie Cummins.

Clessie and Ethel had become acquainted when Sweeney maintained his office in the upstairs of the Irwin garage. In time they would have five children; Brainard (the only Cummins offspring to have a full time career with Cummins Engines), Beatrice, Mary Beth, Jow, and George.

Sadly, Ethel died just after George’s birth in 1925. Clessie, left with five motherless children, met Estella (Stella) Feldman, the sister of a business acquaintance in New York City, shortly afterward.
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slide 17 Still active today at age 88, Lyle Cummins became a very talented engineer in his own right and served as his father’s research and engineering assistant in Clessie’s later years. He also has had a successful second career as a diesel historian and biographer of his father.

Two years after Clessie married Ethel, he and Ethel’s brother, Brainard McCoy, took and ill-organized and often harrowing voyage down the Mississippi in Clessie’s home-built motorboat. Clessie learned several lessons from this expedition.

Avoiding danger and excitement was not among them---that was something he never completely outgrew---but being well-provisioned and well-prepared was, and this included having a reliable fuel source.

Gasoline was seldom readily available in 1912, particularly on the water; Kerosene usually was. Clessie was sure that a reliable way could be found to run internal combustion engines without gasoline, using only cruder forms of oil. Safely home, he began studying oil engines (diesel design).

He concluded that they were all lacking, most of them victims of unnecessary complication. Besides, almost all oil engines then in use were behemoths that took up to 30 tons of weight to produce 200 horsepower. There had to be a better way; Clessie was sure he had found a challenge worthy of his sustained attention.



slide 18: Cummins' Machine Works Cummins' Machine Works to Cummins Engine Company The F Model was Cummins' first successful homegrown engine. Used primarily in marine applications, it laid a firm foundation for future Cummins products. Clessie couldn’t wait to discuss his ideas with W. G. Irwin. Irwin didn’t find Clessie’s enthusiasm particularly contagious; nevertheless, he offered him the rent-free use of a rundown blacksmith shop for his experiments. He also financed the purchase of some tools so Clessie could support himself and his family repairing automobiles.

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slide 19 The year was 1913 and the future was beginning to emerge. A long journey lay ahead, but Clessie was in business.

The next year W. G. delegated to Clessie the redesign of the Irwin stables into a new garage. The renovated building contained room for the Packard and an electric car the family had purchased for around-town use, as well as for Clessie’s experiments and repair business. The opening of the Cummins Machine Works was announced and soon Clessie was clearing $500 to $600 per month, seriously impressive money for 1914-15. By 1916, all repair work was dropped in favor of contract machine work.

With America’s 1917 entry into World War I, Clessie found himself with a contract for machining wheel hubs for artillery wagons. The machine works were transferred into a former railroad warehouse where fifty men labored round the clock. With the war winding down at the end of the next year, Clessie had no idea how to generate enough revenue to meet his payroll. The only hope he could see was to break into the engine manufacturing business.

The next fortuitous occurrence came to pass in October 1918 with his discovery of the Hvid engine. Designed in the Netherlands, the 4-cycle Hvid used a cup adjoining the combustion chamber as a sort of pre-combustion chamber. On the suction stroke of the piston, fuel was delivered into the cup; on the compression stroke, combustion occurred first in the cup and continued into the main chamber, eliminating the injection of fuel by high pressure.
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slide 20 The Hvid principle may have proved not to be in the evolutionary mainstream, but it allowed for the production of a small, lightweight engine that ran well on kerosene.

Clessie traveled to Chicago where, on November 11, 1918, a demonstration of the engine lived up to his hopes. He learned that for the payment of a $2,500 licensing fee and a $5 royalty per engine, he could build Hvids in his own shop. At the moment, the war ended. There would be no engine production for the War Department, but Clessie was confident other markets abounded.

W. G. Irwin, encouraged by Clessie’s enthusiasm, agreed to the capitalization of a new company. On February 3, 1919, after the signing of a Hvid licensing agreement, the Indiana Secretary of State issued a certificate of incorporation to the Cummins Engine Company (the Engine Company, as it would come to be called) with $50,000 in capital stock divided into 500 shares of $100 per value.

Seventeen days later, some 2 investors met to organize the company operations. Clessie Cummins was elected president. Four officers of the company, including Clessie, plu W. G. Irwin comprised a five-member board of directors. The design had been completed for two engines, using the Hvid principle: a one-and-one-half and a three horse-power, each developing its power at 900 rpm, with bore and stroke dimensions of 3 x 4.5 and 3.875 x 5.5, respectively. Now all that remained was to find a market. The Fledgling company lacked the capital to continue long without a revenue stream.

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slide 21 Early experimental Cummins 2-cycle engine was the forerunner of the Model F Cummins. Several of these engines, all built before 1925, were reported still in operation as recently as 1960. The design had been completed for two engines, using the Hvid principle: a one-and-one-half and a three horse-power, each developing its power at 900 rpm, with bore and stroke dimensions of 3 x 4.5 and 3.875 x 5.5, respectively. Now all that remained was to find a market. The Fledgling company lacked the capital to continue long without a revenue stream.

The clouds parted once more in the fall of 1919. Sears, Roebuck, and Co., America’s largest retailer, approached Cummins to discuss a contract for 4,500 engines.

The Sears story presents one of American business history’s great ironies. The company was strictly a mail-order business for its first 40 years; it thrives with no “bricks-and-mortar” locations until 1925. In 1919 everything from clothing to tools to automobiles to houses could be obtained through the sears catalogue.

Hvid “Thermoil” engines, manufactured by the Hercules Engine Co., Evansville, Indiana., were already a catalogue item, but Hercules could not satisfy Sears demand.
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Slide 22 Hercules plant manager, V. E. (Mac) McMullen---later to be a longtime Cummins executive and board member---suggested that the new cross-state centure might be able to fill the breach.

Hvid “Thermoil” engines, manufactured by the Hercules Engine Co., Evansville, Indiana., were already a catalogue item, but Hercules could not satisfy Sears demand. Hercules plant manager, V. E. (Mac) McMullen---later to be a longtime Cummins executive and board member---suggested that the new cross-state centure might be able to fill the breach.

Clessie recalled that the Sears proposition “nearly took my breath away.” The Cumins employment rolls swelled to at least 85 men and an addition was made to the building. The severe economic downtown of 1920 seemed to be affecting Cummins not at all. But it turned out that Clessie and his work force had much to learn about production schedules and quality control. W. G. Irwin’s refusal to see the value of investing in the best available machine tools was a hindrance Clessie was never able to surmount completely.

The Hvid design also contained defects not initially suspected. The road to success with Sears was turning out to be rockier than anticipated. The contract was cancelled in 1922 with 1,400 engines unsold.
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slide 23 Cummins Model U 6-cylinder engine. Designed as a marine engine, it powered many luxury yachts of the late 1920s. The engine later proved remarkably versatile. Clessie Cummins learned much about the best design for modern highway diesels by driving U-powered vehicles in some of his many marathon excursions.

Cummins had not been able to ascend a steep learning curve rapidly enough. Still, in the final reckoning, Sears was probably more at fault than Cummins for the venture’s lack of success. An overly generous guarantee appears to have been the biggest problem. Contriving to take maximum advantage of a 60-day full refund policy, groups of farmers, it appears, would pool capital, purchase an engine, use it for wood cutting or other tasks for 60 days, and return it for a refund.

The impression seems to have persisted that Clessie Cummins’ savvy as a businessman did not match his technical genius or marketing prowess. While this may not be completely lacking in truth (it’s a comparison that sets a high bar, after all), it was Cummins, not W. G. Irwin or any legal advisor, that had the foresight to secure in writing from a Sears executive further guarantees that exceeded the contract’s terms.
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Slide 24 Early experimental Cummins 2-cycle engine was the forerunner of the Model F Cummins. Several of these engines, all built before 1925, were reported still in operation as recently as 1960. This resulted in the Engine Company’s recovering $85,000 from the Chicago retailing giant it otherwise would have lost.

Clessie now found the Hvid contract had no provision for voiding the license. After consulting with a patent attorney, he concluded his only escape route was to develop a new technology that would bypass the Hvid patents. In 1921, he applied for a patent covering a “Circulating Oil System for Old Engines.” Subsequently approved, it contained the necessary magic.

Development of the famous single disc fuel pump proceeded from this point;the patent in fact contained elements of the pressure-timed (PT) system, considered revolutionary when it was marketed 30 years later. A more complete discussion of the single disc, double disc and PT systems---their development, their operation, and the way they compared---will follow in part Two of this story in November/December. For now, the most important point to note is that it was at this juncture that Clessie realized that he needed a full-time, professionally trained engineer.
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slide 25 Danish-born Hans (H. L.) Knudsen arrived in Columbus in 1922 to head the Cummins Engineering Department. He had first worked for General Electric upon arriving in America some years earlier and later served as a troubleshooter for Hvid. This may in fact be where Clessie made his acquaintance, He was consulted on the oil circulating system patent and assured Clessie and W. G. that the principle was sound.

Kudsen’s steady, solid Nordic temperament may have provided needed ballast for the usually sunny, though sometimes mercurial, Clessie. At any rate, their partnership was a success. Knudsen would remain with the Engine Company until 1948 and played a key design role in the development of the epochal H-series engine, soon to be discussed.

The F was Cummins’ first home-grown engine model, and it was available in 1, 2, 3,4 or 6-cylinder versions. Its 5.5 inch bore and 7.5 inch stroke worked out to a whopping 178.2 cubic inches per piston for a 1,069-cubic-inch engine in the 6-cylinder version.

The F in basic form developed 12.5 horsepower at 600 rpm. This engine performed best pulling heavy loads at controlled speeds, exactly the kind of performance required by fishing trawlers. (At this point, it should be mentioned that lack of electrical ignition was one feature that gave diesels an advantage in marine applications.)
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slide 26 The F proved a commercial success. Over the next seven years, 500 copies of this engine and its derivations were produced. Cummins ventured out of the marine field into earth moving in 1925 with an order from the Northwest Engineering Company for fifty 50-hp F-Models for power shovels and labor for additional 75-hp Model Ns, featuring a 5.75 x 8.5 bore and stroke.

The F, with its exposed inner workings, proved less than ideally suited for coping with the dust and grime of heavy construction work; before the end of 1925, the semi-enclosed P and W versions were available. A toehold had been gained in a market that came to be dominated completely by diesels, though Cummins was never to establish a position rivalling Caterpillar’s.

The F, N, P, and W models represented a learning experience. It was a difficult one at times, but it led in the right direction. Lessons learned were put to good use in the new Model U that debuted in 1928.

The U was possibly the world’s first fully enclosed diesel engine. It substituted vertical valves for inclined and introduced the new and generally reliable single-disc fuel pump that served its purpose for the next 20 years. As the ‘20s roared louder. Cummins gained a share of the luxury yacht market, producing marine engines of up to 175 hp. Smaller engines, for such uses as lighthouse generator sets, provided more of a bread-and-butter market. Whatever their intended purpose, 155 engines were sold in 1928.

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slide 27 U. S. Vice President Charles Curtis and Indiana Governor Harry Leslie (right) flank Clessie Cummins as they inspect the 1925 Packard roadster powered by a U-Model engine. Clessie packed the engine he had used in the Packard limousine for the New York Auto Show excursion into the lighter-weight Packard to achieve higher speeds at Daytona Beach in 1930. Revenue more than doubled---to nearly $3,000,000---and losses decreased significantly. Things were looking up, but this success was not to be built on. Stock market hiccups in early 1929 signaled that all might not be well. Then, during a ten-week period in the fall, the market lost nearly half its value. Matters deteriorated quickly from that point.


slide 28: Barnum and Bailey The Barnum and Bailey Years December 13, 1929, dawned on a Friday, W. G. Irwin summoned Clessie to his office to inform him that he saw virtually no chance of the Engine Company’s surviving what now appeared to be a prolonged economic downturn. According to Cummins, Irwin announced his intention to begin liquidation immediately. “I’ll simply take my loss and forget it,” was his final word. This 1936 Auburn four-door sedan was a star attraction at the 19th Annual Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Festival in Auburn, Indiana.,on Labor Day weekend 1974. The speciality-built 6-cylinder Model A Cummins engine was designed was an aluminum block and head to save weight and is rated at 85-hp at 2200 rpm.
The car 8s owned today by Cummins, Inc., and was restored by James Butler (engine) and Harold Hatter (body and interior). Clessie Cummins drove this car as his personal transportation in the late 1930s.
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slide 29 Cummins admitted he had no rebuttal. Prospects for a merry Christmas appeared dim indeed. As he recovered from the blow, Clessie found an amazing idea crossing his mind, The smallest, lightest, highest horse-power-per-pound engine possible had been his dream, at least as far back as the Mississippi River adventure of 1912.

As long ago as 1924, he had fielded the idea of building a special engine for a publicity run to New York. He quickly as possible with a U-model layout drawing and a measuring tape and not to forget his coat and hat.

When a bewildered Knudsen appeared shortly, he was told they were leaving for Indianapolis to buy a car that would accommodate a Model-U engine. Cummins’ later recollection of the day’s events was that the usually imperturbable Knudsen thought he (Clessie) had lost his mind.

As far as can be told, no one had previously given even a moment’s thought to adapting any of the engines Cummins had built over the last 10 years to automotive use. Ready markets seemed to be much more along waterways or even railways than highways.

Pushing all such thinking aside, Clessie knew that extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. As he told an extremely skeptical Knudsen, “When the house is on fire, I’m going to throw anything wet I can find on the blaze.”
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slide 30 U. S. Vice President Charles Curtis and Indiana Governor Harry Leslie (right) flank Clessie Cummins as they inspect the 1925 Packard roadster powered by a U-Model engine. Clessie packed the engine he had used in the Packard limousine for the New York Auto Show excursion into the lighter-weight Packard to achieve higher speeds at Daytona Beach in 1930. The first part of “anything” was a quickly located 1925 Packard limousine. Best possible efforts with the measuring tape suggested that the U engine should fit in its under-the-hood compartment, if barely. The car was hastily purchased for $600, hustled the 40 miles back to Columbus, and slipped, under cover of darkness, into a shed behind the main engine plant.

After a frantic several days of necessary modifications, the diesel was shoe-horned into the Packard engine compartment. Only the cooling fan wouldn’t fit, but with the more efficient, lower-horsepower diesel transferring less heat into the radiator, it was deemed unnecessary.

A change in the engine’s governed speed from 1000 to 1300 rpm and in the rear end ratio from 4.69:1 to 2.5 raised top speed from 20-55 mph.
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slide 31 By Christmas Eve, after several 24-hour workdays, the car was ready for a shakedown cruise. At six o’clock Christmas morn, the shed door opened to a newly fallen six-inch snow. Despite slick roads and several hundred extra pounds on the front end, the Packard handled well and the engine was smooth and responsive. So far, so good, but as Clessie drove slowly toward the Irwin home, he knew the biggest test lay ahead.

W. G. Irwin was in no mood for a Christmas outing in the snow, much less one in Clessie’s “new car” that Irwin knew had been bought with his money. Cajoled by his sister (who had been let in on the secret), he finally consented. Before the Jaunt was over, Irwin had seen the car’s engine and realized its provenance. Petulance turned into excitement.

According to Clessie, Irwin exclaimed that the car contained one of “our” engines; previous references had always been saved; a case can be made that highways diesel power in America became a reality on Christmas Day, 1929.

Clessie and W. G. talked almost until midnight; never once was closing the Engine Company mentioned. Clessie knew, however, that he could leave no stone unturned in capitalizing on the newly-stoked enthusiasm. He decided that he would drive the still less-than-totally proven car from Columbus to New York for the January 6, 1930 opening of the National Auto show.




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slide 32 He knew that an 800-mile drive over the mountains in winter posed a more-than-nominal risk in the most reliable car, but also knew the publicity value inherent made the risk worth taking. Accompanied by Knudsen and two members of the press, he embarked from Indianapolis on january 4, bravely announcing along the way that he would arrive at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City at 4 p.m. on the 6th.

In spite of detours, a minor electrical fire, and dead batteries that precluded shutting down the engine, Clessie pulled up to Roosevelt's door at 3:58. The 6,000-lb auto had required 30 gallons of fuel for the 792-mile trip, averaging 26.4 mpg., for a total fuel cost of $1.38!

Despite not being allowed inside Grand Central Palace for an official part in the show, the party-crashing Packard and its sleep-crazed driver became the toast of the town. Even Walter P. Chrysler wanted his picture taken with the cummins-powered competitor and had to be dissuaded by his publicity people.

Completing his 2,780-mile journey by way of Atlantic City and Detroit, Clessie spent time demonstrating the car to Henry and Edsel Ford and to Charles F. Kettering. Henry Ford floated the idea of diesel-powered aviation, but then gave the wise advice that the market for the engine was trucks, not automobiles.
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Slide 33 Early experimental Cummins 2-cycle engine was the forerunner of the Model F Cummins. Several of these engines, all built before 1925, were reported still in operation as recently as 1960. Clessie continued his self-described Barnum and Bailey exploits on the racing circuit. He placed the U engine in a lighter weight Packard roadster, stripped down further for speed, and took it to Daytona Beach where he set a diesel speed record of 80.398 mph, turning as high as 1900 rpm. Not bad for a 1300-lb, 4-cylinder, 50-hp fishing boat engine designed to run at 800 rpm!

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slide 34 The following year, 1931, he returned to the beach, improving the record to 100.755 mph in a Duesenburg designed racer powered by a special high-performance U.

For the 1931 Indianapolis 500 a few months later, the same car was given a waiver through the good offices of track general manager Eddie Rickenbacker to run as a special engineering entry. Number 8 with Dave Evans at the wheel, finished a respectable 13th, posting a speed of 86.17 mph and becoming the first car ever to finish the race without refueling.

Cummins ran once more at Indianapolis in the 1930s, fielding two entries for the 1934 Indy 500, both smaller and lighter than Number 8 and carrying 4-cylinder versions of the new Model-H engine, one modified into a 2-cycle variant. The 4-cycle car showed promise, but left the race with a damaged transmission. The 2-cycle car managed to finish, but with the engine in tatters. This was the end of the story for 2-cycle development by Cummins.

The now-venerable Model U was still considered primarily a marine engine, but it was to be given more chance to strut its stuff on the highway---and what a show it performed! In early August 1931, an Indiana truck with a special cargo body, carrying the Number 8 race car and supplies and sleeping provisions for three men, left New York for California. On board were Clessie Cummins, Dave Evans, and Ford Moyer.
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slide 34. pt 2 In spite of a fuel pump replacement in St. Louis, a broken rocker arm, a cabin fire, and a near collision with a freight train while descending Cajon Pass with gravely compromised brakes, they set a record time of 125 hours and 52 minutes with an actual running time of 97 hours and 20 minutes. Fuel mileage of 15.75 mpg, or .01 cent per ton mile, was achieved with total fuel cost of $11.22.

This had to have been of more than passing interest to Depression-weary truckers, desperate to cut operating costs. Clessie boarded a train for home and completion of the project he had been promising: a high-speed diesel truck engine.
slide 35:Birth and Baptism The Birth and Baptism of the
H-Model

Clessie and H. L. Knudsen had been analyzing what the basic design for the new engine should be since the summer of 1930. Clessie knew that Knudsen’s conservative design philosophy would give the engine enough strength to survive both abuse and subsequent power increases.

Left, views of the long-lived 6-cylinder Cummins H-Model. The H was first marketed in early 1932. In this form, it introduced countless truck operators to diesel power. Right, The legendary 200-hp four-valve NH (New H) engine, introduced in early 1945, was a direct descendent of the H Model. It was one of the most powerful engines on the road in its day. Next Page
slide 36 The 6-cylinder model’s target performance from a bore and stroke design of 4.875 x 6 inches was 125 hp @ 1800 rpm, a figure arrived at from a survey of Western fleet operators. The 4-cylinder developed 80 hp @ 1800 rpm.

Almost the entire Irwin-Sweeney-Miller family was on hand to see the new engine draw its first breath on November 9, 1931. The local newspaper announced that evening that “A babe was born in Columbus today---a babe of the automotive world, which in time may grow to be the most popular bus and truck powerplant in the country.”

These were prophetic words. Versions of this engine in its original 672 cubic inch, 2-cylinder per head configuration were produced for the next 37 years and the 743 cubic inch, 4-valve version even longer. The 855 cubic inch derivative lasted into the 1990s and boasted ratings of up to 475 hp. Its direct descendent, the N14, became the first fully electronic Cummins engine and was produced into the 21st century.

The H engine received a baptism by fire far exceeding anything seen before and probably since. Many would have thought it foolhardy at the least.
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slide 37 U. S. Vice President Charles Curtis and Indiana Governor Harry Leslie (right) flank Clessie Cummins as they inspect the 1925 Packard roadster powered by a U-Model engine. Clessie packed the engine he had used in the Packard limousine for the New York Auto Show excursion into the lighter-weight Packard to achieve higher speeds at Daytona Beach in 1930. Foolhardy or not, it was bold. It was very much in the best Clessie Cummins/Barnum and Bailey tradition, and it made a point in lapidary terms---one that became a foundation of the Cummins reputation. As son Lyle wrote many years later, “...it would again exemplify [Clessie’s] genius to creatively transform ideas into successful outcomes in remarkably short times.”

From December 11 to December 26, 1931, Clessie Cummins and co-drivers Dave Evans, Ford Moyer, and Lt. Lawrence Genaro, Army Air Corps officer and part-time racer, drove an Indiana truck with a 6-cylinder Cummins H engine 5,840 consecutive laps around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a tidal of 13,535 non-stop miles, shattering a world record.

The engine was never shut down and the truck’s wheels never completely stopped moving.

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slide 38 A special system of railings along the front bumper and fenders were constructed for repairs performed by the two-man pit crew of Don Cummins and Jay Chambers. Fuel cost was $71.54. No one should ever be surprised on discovering that the H, HB, and NH Cummins engines were tough.

Clessie’s final 1930s marathon was run coast-to-coast in 1932 with the same engine that had run at the Speed-way now installed in a Mack bus. Dave Evans, Ted Kelly of CUmmins, and two automotive journalists also were aboard for this trip. This time 3,220 miles were covered in 91 hours and 10 minutes with an actual running time of 78 hours and 10 minutes. This was a schedule that would have beaten the fastest express train. With a 5-speed overdrive transmission and 2-speed rear, 65 mph was often achieved.

The only mishap was an axle broken at Lordsburg, N. M., railroad crossing; an elderly blacksmith. Roused from his sleep, was able to perform repairs that enabled the bus to make Los Angeles in record time. Gross weight was 21,550 lbs. Fuel consumption was 365 gallons, for a mpg reading of 8.82 and fuel cost was $21.90. The bus and its engine had both performed far beyond expectations.

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slide 39 Desperate though the nation may have been for Depression-era diversion, it shouldn’t be assumed that most hung on Clessie’s every stunt. Recognition was actually very hard won and gaining it had called for every trick of showmanship he could muster, but he was beginning to be noticed.A 1934 Fortune magazine article displayed the inventor’s smiling, unshaven face after the 12,000-mile Indianapolis endurance run and called him “the man who has so far done most [to improve diesel performance] in the U. S. automotive field.”

The bus trip had brought Clessie’s golden age of Barnum and Bailey stunts to a close. There was a great deal less to prove that there had been three years earlier. But it was clear that a man of Clessie’s restless inclinations wasn’t going to settle down to mind the store.

From the spring of 1930, just about the time Clessie began hitting the road on an almost full time basis, until the early months of 1934, the company’s day-to-day operations had been overseen by general manager John Niven, a friend of Clessie’s and business protege of W. G. Irwin. Irwin had backed Niven and partner Ivan Hedden in a California supermarket chain called Purity Stores some years earlier.
slide 35: Back Home Desperate though the nation may have been for Depression-era diversion, it shouldn’t be assumed that most hung on Clessie’s every stunt. Recognition was actually very hard won and gaining it had called for every trick of showmanship he could muster, but he was beginning to be noticed.A 1934 Fortune magazine article displayed the inventor’s smiling, unshaven face after the 12,000-mile Indianapolis endurance run and called him “the man who has so far done most [to improve diesel performance] in the U. S. automotive field.”

The bus trip had brought Clessie’s golden age of Barnum and Bailey stunts to a close. There was a great deal less to prove that there had been three years earlier. But it was clear that a man of Clessie’s restless inclinations wasn’t going to settle down to mind the store.

From the spring of 1930, just about the time Clessie began hitting the road on an almost full time basis, until the early months of 1934, the company’s day-to-day operations had been overseen by general manager John Niven, a friend of Clessie’s and business protege of W. G. Irwin. Irwin had backed Niven and partner Ivan Hedden in a California supermarket chain called Purity Stores some years earlier.
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slide 40 With Hedden as the more active manager at Purity, Niven was able to return to his native Indiana and devote time to Cummins. But in late 1932, Hedden suddenly died. After months of commuting, Nevin decided he has to give purity more of his time and Cummins less.

Fortunately, John Nevin had installed an apprentice at store headquarters in San Francisco some months earlier, a young man who had completed graduate studies in england and decided on a business career. This young man was proving a quick study, so it was decided that he and Niven would swap places. Niven returned to California and Irwin Miller returned home to Indiana. Cummins Engine Company now had a general manager who would stay in place for some time to come.
Clessie Cummins and the early years of the Engine Company
CHALLENGING THE IMPOSSIBLE Introduction Back Home An Itinerant Boyhood Clessie Meets Family Cummins' Machine Works Barnum and Bailey Birth and Baptism