Petroleum Collectibles Monthly

December 2004 - Guarantee Liquid Measure Co. - Scott Anderson

THE GAS PUMP SHOWCASE #27 (Guarantee Liquid Measure Co. #2/2)

In last month’s Gas Pump Showcase we took a look at the Guarantee Liquid Measure Company of Rochester, PA. Specifically, I discussed the years 1915 to 1924 and the early versions of five-gallon Guarantee Visible Pumps. These pumps were characterized by their shorter size and heavy use of cast iron as opposed to the sheet metal designs of the late 1920s.

This month we will continue our look at the Guarantee Visible Measure Company and we will concentrate on the years 1925 to 1930. During this time in the company’s history, the trade name “Guarantee Visible” was dropped in favor of an emphasis on the family name “Fry”. Now the five and ten-gallon visible pumps became known as Fry Visible Pumps. During the early 1920s, the company enjoyed great success in the form of greatly increased sales. The following quote from a 1925 Fry Visible Pump advertisement points directly to the expansion of the company and the marketing success associated with the Fry name:

“Specify Fry! When buying gasoline pumps be sure that you specify Fry.
Fry has that rare combination of important essentials – simplicity,
accuracy, speed, visibility, economy, and dependability. So don’t
forget – when you buy – specify Fry. It is not an accident that the Fry
plants have doubled and re-doubled their capacity in an effort to fill the
ever increasing quantity of orders. Marketers and retailers of gasoline
have found a distinct advantage in selling their well known brand via the
well known Fry Visible Pump. The Fry pump has proven its accuracy
under all conditions – has proven its dependability under all conditions –
has proven itself to be fool-proof under all conditions. Wherever you find
one or more Fry pumps in operation you find a constantly increasing
gasoline business.”

While much of the company’s success can be attributed directly to the quality of their products, some credit should go to the overall organization and specialization under the leadership of the company’s officers. These officers included: founder and chairman H.C. Fry, Sr., President W.S. Townsend, Vice President H.C. Fry, Jr., Vice President of Sales C.A. Bowden, Vice President-General Manager A.J. Townsend, Sales Manager P.R. Engle, and Chief Engineer W.C. MacMillen.

The sales organization was divided into nine different districts or territories including the Central, Eastern, Southeastern, Southwestern, Northwestern, West Coast, Canada, England and Europe, and World Export.

Between 1921 and 1925, the Canadian sales territory was organized as a licensed distributorship operated by the Philip Gies Pump Company, Ltd. of Kitchener, Ontario. In 1926, the Canadian organization became an independent operation known as the Fry Equipment Company Ltd. and the Canadian headquarters were moved to Toronto, Ontario.

In 1927, the Guarantee Liquid Measure Co. purchased the Marvel Pump Company of Cleveland, Ohio, a manufacturer of oil and grease pumps and dispensers. A.J. Townsend, Vice President and General Manager of Guarantee Liquid Measure Co., was moved to Cleveland to head this new division. In 1928, the Guarantee Liquid Measure Company changed their name to the Fry Equipment Corporation. Also in 1928, the English-European division was established as the Fry Equipment Company, Ltd. – Astor House, Aldwych, London, W.C. 2. England.

Between 1924 and 1928, the majority of the company’s sales resulted directly from the success and popularity of the Fry #17 (five-gallon) and Fry #117 (ten-gallon) visible pumps. These pumps are quite popular with today’s vintage gas pump collectors and for the last thirty years they have often been referred to by their nickname, the “Mae West” pump. The technical factory name for these pumps was the “Fry Guarantee Visible Double Action Hand Pump”. While exact production figures are not available for these pumps, I would estimate that well over one hundred thousand of these Fry visible pumps were produced between 1925 and 1928. The following promotional advertising copy from 1926 describes the many attributes of the “Mae West” Fry Visible Pump:

“For the past three years we have recognized the growing need for
a fast, visible, hand operated pump at a low price. Equipment #17 and
#117 Double Action is the answer. This pump has been painstakenly
developed, each feature being included only after it had been thoroughly
proved by continuous operation under field conditions.

“Careful investigation has shown that the pump that would perfectly meet
the need must have these qualities – absolute accuracy, visibility, speed,
simplicity, low installation cost, low-up-keep and low selling price.

“All of these requirements have been completely met in Equipment #17 and #117 – and more, it is a beautiful pump. The pumping united is
conveniently located in the base. All pipe work completely concealed
within the symmetrical pedestal. It has the famous Fry adjustable over-
flow principle of measurement, which makes possible absolute and
continuous accuracy. It is visible. The pumping unit is double action;
and operated with a minimum of effort; literally speaking, it is the fastest
visible hand pump made.

“Its mechanical construction is simple and durable. The double action
pumping unit is all metal; no leathers or washers. It will work for years
without even an adjustment. Every part is immediately accessible. The
installation is simple and inexpensive. There are no check or foot valves
that affect the measurement. It is labeled by the Underwriters

“We tell you with confidence that this is a perfect pump. It is handsome in
appearance, a wonderful business-getter and you can install it and forget
it so far as upkeep is concerned.”

In 1927, the Guarantee Liquid Measure Company introduced their new Fry #87 “Tall” ten-gallon visible pump. This pump was initially produced to satisfy the new “Ohio Specifications” requirements, but eventually the Fry #87 was marketed throughout the U.S.A. A large number of these pumps were sold between 1927 and 1928.

Also in 1927, the Guarantee Liquid Measure Company introduced a very unusual new model known as the Fry “Super Twin”. This revolutionary new model featured twin glass cylinders that measured approximately 4 ½” O.D. by 15” high. These cylinders were designed to hold one-gallon of gasoline at a time and they were filled and discharged by air pressure, not gravity. When one cylinder is filling, the air contained in that cylinder is forced through a by-pass into the top of the cylinder that is discharging, thus forcing the gasoline out through the hose. These unusual pumps also featured a recording indicator, a flow meter, extremely accurate and high-speed delivery, and a very attractive hexagon design. In many ways these pumps seem to follow the overall design of many French twin cylinder gasoline pumps, and it is possible that they were produced
with the potential for conversion to liters and international export. Very few of these pumps were ever produced by the Guarantee Liquid Measure Company, and only two examples are known to exist today. Apparently, no model number was assigned to this pump that we know of.

In 1928, the new Fry Equipment Corporation introduced a new line of “Speedboy” ten-gallon visible pumps. This line of pumps was designated by the #70 and #80 series and they also featured an attractive hexagon design. Model #70, #71, #80, and #81 incorporated a 13 5/8” O.D. x 22” high glass cylinder and model #72, #73, #82, and #83 used a 12” O.D. x 27” high glass cylinder. Only a few thousand of these pumps were manufactured between 1928 and 1929.

The last pump ever produced by Fry was known as the “Fry Meter System”. This unusual clock face pump was produced in very small numbers during 1928. Like the Fry “Super Twin” only two of these pumps are known to exist today, and no known model number was designated for this pump either. This pump was equipped with a motorized, high speed, discharge from two separate hoses and nozzles. The pump used a totalizer, twin sight gauges, nozzle control, and a bell would ring for each gallon delivered. There is no doubt that the “Fry Meter System” pumps were very attractive and like the Fry “Super Twin” pumps they would command a very high price in today’s collector market. If anyone out there has an extra Fry “Super Twin” pump or a Fry “Meter System” pump for sale please give me a call!

Due to heavy competition, changing technologies, and a deteriorating economy, the Fry Equipment Corporation and the Marvel Pump Companies were forced to sell their assets and accounts to the Wayne Company of Fort Wayne, Indiana between 1928 and 1929. By 1930, the Fry name had disappeared from the gasoline pump manufacturing industry altogether.

Next month we will take a look at the National Duplex Pump and the National Recording Pump Company of Dayton, Ohio. Thanks for reading The Gas Pump Showcase and Happy Holidays to all PCM readers!


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