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Edwin Rutenber & Western Motor Company

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In 1900 a new industry came to Logansport and opened a new foundry on the west side, at the west end of Wheatland Avenue at Center Street and Western Avenue. It was known as the Logansport Foundry Company. A year or two later, two men who had been living in Chicago came to the new foundry. They were Edwin A. and Henry D. Rutenber.

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Ed was a clever designer and had invented a new multi-cylinder motor. Henry, his older brother, was a skilled pattern maker and made patterns for his brother’s designs. The new motor became so popular that the foundry firm was re-organized and became the Western Motor Company. The Rutenbers and James F. Digan, the practical foundry man of the company, developed a method of casting a four-cylinder motor in one piece, or “en bloc,” to use a technical term. It became immensely popular.

Ed Rutenber wanted to build complete automobiles. He enlisted the help of two Logansport men, Lem Coppock and Charles S. Ferguson. The two men, working in Ferguson’s barn, produced a car that ran satisfactorily. The high body, reaching fully six feet above the ground, had no top. No one knew how fast it would run, because speedometers weren’t made at that time. The high body style wasn’t new. In fact it was the popular style of the day and there were many cars of that type in town. Rutenber and Coppock used a four-cylinder standard Rutenber motor for the car. Joe Amen, a local carriage maker, built the body. The group had ambitious plans for the establishment of a company to manufacture cars on a large scale, but these never materialized.

During the summer of 1902 the firm produced 10 automobiles. One of those was known to have been designed for C.W. Swift of the famous Chicago meat packing house. It was Rutenber’s first and last series of automobiles. The company did, however, become famous as an engine builder. Barb spent most of her life working on files, creating family trees, doing research, and chronicling events. She began doing research at the age of 21 as a hobby.

In 1973, the Smithsonian Institution, United States National Museum, in Washington D.C., accepted a Rutenber engine into it’s collection, with the understanding by descendants of the Rutenber family that the engine might not be on exhibit, but that it would be properly preserved.

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