Joseph Blumentritt, a German immigrant, built a portable 6HP steam engine in 1870 at LaCrosse, Wisconsin. He continued to develop his ideas while living in Winona County, Minnesota and is recognized as the builder of the first steam traction engine west of the Mississippi River. Blumentritt constructed an earthen dam on Pine Creek and directed the water to the turbine pit of the 30' x 30' shop on his farm in Minnesota. With his idea, a market, and by using the power of water for his machining, Blumentritt succeeded in building the 22 steam traction engines. His design consisted of double cylinders in 6, 12 and 24 HP. They were fired from the front, with return flue boilers, and operated from a platform on the side with a steering wheel.
The 1878 Blumentritt is part of the "Smolik Brothers" collection that was donated to the Mitchell County Iowa Historical Society by Ray, Ed and Evelyn Smolik. Ed and Ray, the Smolik Brothers, were well known for their ability to seek and acquire rare and unique agricultural equipment. The 1878 Blumentritt 12HP steam traction engine may appear small in comparison with the other gentle giants in motion at Cedar Valley Memories.
Visitors show their delight at the sight of the 1878 Blumentritt engine with a shape as unusual as its name. Joseph Blumentritt would be proud if he could see his engine moving about the show grounds. The Blumentritt was featured as the 7th, in a series of 8, limited special event postal cancelations at the 11th Annual Cedar Valley Memories Power Show in 2006.