|If the history which has passed down through Jeff Harrison’s four generations is correct, we are seeing the first Flint built Buick engine, for the first Flint built Buick automobile, being cast in April of 1904. The reason the previous sentence sounds redundant is because in the beginning Buick was making engines only for farmers, other car builders and also marine engines. This is what was done by Buick in Detroit and continued when they first came to Flint. The decision to make an automobile came later. In the photo above Robert Wilmont Harrison is at the left with no hat. Jeff said the notation on the back of this photo says: first Buick upper and lower case being poured. He also mentions numbers on the back: 10-6. I do not know what 10-6 is. My first guess would be some type of model number but I can find no number matching this. If it were a date you would think it would also include the year. And if it were the date, it would be too late in 1904 to be the milestone first engine of the first Flint Buick. Also consider that history shows Barker & Hamel not starting until January of 1904 and the first Buick auto was ‘running around’ the Buick factory in late May of 1904. It would be easy to say it’s not a date, but it could very well be one. Lets just say for a minute that it is a date, and 10 is October and 6 is the day, then we could be talking 10-6-1903. Could a foundry have been pouring Buick castings in Flint at that time? I would say it is not only possible but probable, given the fact that David Buick was already taking orders on engines of all types even before he left Detroit. This kind of putting the horse before the cart goes on even today but more so back then. Buick could never keep up with orders right from the beginning. I mention one place that I think this casting work could have taken place farther on in this posting. This kind of constant ‘hurry up and wait’ philosophy is what led to the lawsuit in 1907 against the Reid Manufacturing company. That lawsuit came about for lack of payment on engines delivered but never paid for. If you need the in depth story on this you will need to read the second edition book: “David Buick’s Marvelous Motor Car” by Lawrence Gustin and Kevin Kirbitz. Buick had taken the Reid orders on December 14, 1903 with a promise to deliver the first ones by Christmas when construction of the new Buick plant had just started in September. Since David Buick was promising engines by Christmas he would almost surely have had a casting plant lined up to pour the parts needed. Maybe he was still using the foundry in Detroit until they could get settled in Flint. The Detroit foundry did their work during the flood in Flint that caused the scramble by raft for rescuing the patterns used in making the molding cores. David Buick was not the brightest bulb in a room of businessmen. He was a hands on kind of guy who really understood mechanics and seemed to have a mindset that would let his thoughts wander onto other matters once he had gotten bored with something. One thing that makes this photo ring true is that Jeff said his ancestor told a story of the flood in the last month of April 1904. His understanding was that his ancestor had given a bottle of scotch whiskey to a man with a raft so they could save the patterns from the foundry. This story sounds a lot like the transcripts from the Buick & Reid lawsuit. David Buick said the same thing “minus the scotch”. One thing Jeff knows for certain is that his great grandfather, Robert, had always claimed to have poured the first Buick automobile engine in Flint. If he was pouring Buick engine cases in 1903, they would almost certainly be the warmed over L-head marine engines, used in automobiles he was selling to Reid for use in the Chainless Wolverine. Lets not forget that the Wolverine prototype was mistaken for the first Buick prototype for nearly 100 years until someone finally noticed it had a drive shaft instead of a chain. A photo in the “Buick’s First Half-Century” book in 1953 shows this exact engine and states it was the first Buick engine. I know of several books put out by Buick concerning their own history that are riddled with errors but I do believe Jeff’s great grandfather poured the first automobile engine for the Buick Motor Works. I have no reason to doubt Jeff’s family history and I just need to see all the pieces fall into place. I’m still researching and trying to answer some of these questions. I will give more clues in the post after this one.