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Early Marine Engines - A Central New York State Commodity, by Bruce Hall, published in the June 1999 issue of BRIGHTWORK.  Copyright retained by the author

              Consider the approaching 21st Century - a dawn of what futurist Alvin Tofflar describes as the Third Wave, an electronic age with seemingly un­limited inventions and technical ad­vancements. This same element of potential existed at the approach of the 20th Century, the period Tofflar aptly described as the Second Wave or the transition of our economy from rural agrarian to urban industrial.

                  In upstate New York fruitful and inventive minds were commonplace with a work ethic born in the rugged farm environments and an ingenuity born of necessity. As a result, a hot bed of inventors producing a myriad of products and concepts had their origin here. One such product was the early marine engine. Nearly 120 firms can be documented in New York State alone as having been involved in early marine gas engine manufacture. A large percentage of these firms were based along the Erie Canal corridor from Utica to Rochester and included several ci­ties in the Finger Lakes Region. We’ll begin this series In Canastota, located some 20 miles east of Syracuse. Well known for onions, potatoes, and boxing, Canastota was a shipping terminal on the Erie Canal in the early days sending its muckland harvest to eastern and western markets.

                In 1856 Charles Norman Cady (locally known as C.N.) was born in Clockville near Canastota, the son of a woolen mill operator. He began his career in the west as a mechanic in the steam engine business and the fledgling gas engine industry.  In 1883 he returned to Canastota, built a machine shop and foundry on West Center St., and in 1885 he began the manufacture of steam engines. Two years later he turned to gasoline engines, developing a variety of power plants for boats and automobiles.

                Noted for their simplicity, early Cady marine engines were mostly two stroke types ranging from a 1-1/2 hp canoe engine to a 40 hp, four cylinder design. Often, C.N.’s larger engines were multiples of a particular single cylinder model that shared a common base and extended crankshaft. Production grew quickly with more than 9,000 engines sold over a period of time to one Boston firm and over 1,000 engines built in 1907 alone.

                Like many marine engine manufacturers in the 1920’s and 30’s, Cady adapted auto engines into some of his models. A common conversion was the Model T, four cylinder Ford which Cady marinizes and began selling as the Cady-Ford. (FLC member, Donn Booth, has a beauti­fully restored Cady-Ford).  But the Ford Motor Company took exception to C. N.’s use of the Ford name and he was required to rename his conversion the Cady Four.

                The exhaust manifold of the Cady Four was a Cady built item. Finished in black wrinkled paint, it proudly displayed the name “Cady of Canastota” in large script.

                Around 1900 C.N. also dabbled in gas powered and electric vehicles, building four autos and five trucks from scratch. But, as with many other engine and automotive pioneers, lack of capital prevented full scale production. Cady engines were also sold to D. M Tuttle and William H. Lindley who operated two other Canastota companies that produced boats. Those two firms will be explored in sub­sequent articles in this series. The Cady Engine Co. continued in business into the mid-30’s when it was sold to investors and renamed West Lake Mfg. Co.


Note:  Our thanks to Bruce Hall for submitting this article, and we look forward to future installments.

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