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Cummins Celebrates 95th Anniversary

clessie_cummins - 95th Anniversary Article Image - LargeA milestone like 95 years doesn’t happen without innovation, technology and product quality and outstanding support from dealers such as you. Here’s some history that’s been made in the past 95 years that we think you will enjoy.

The first diesel engine, manufactured in 1919 by Cummins, was a 6-hp, single-cylinder horizontal design that operated at 600 rpm based on a design by a Dutch inventor named Hvid.

The first Cummins-designed engine was produced in 1922, and was placed into service on shrimp boats based out of New Orleans. Cummins Inc. founder Clessie Cummins had to actually live with the crews on the boats in order to get them to try his new engine design. The initial trial was a success, and soon they were getting more orders to power other shrimp trawlers in the area.

By 1928, demand for Cummins engines from the power generation and construction industries was growing – but the dusty, dirty operating conditions were extremely detrimental to engine performance. It was at this point that Cummins developed the first fully enclosed diesel engine in the world.

With the economic downturn of the 1930s, it became apparent that Cummins needed to expand its market base in order to sell a sufficient quantity of engines to survive. So in 1931, Clessie himself helped install a Model H engine into a used Packard limousine sedan, which was presented to W.G. Irwin on Christmas morning. This same vehicle was used as a public-relations vehicle during the first big PR event of Clessie’s career, a fuel-economy run from Indianapolis to New York City – averaging 35 mpg with a total cost of $1.38 for fuel.

Clessie and his team from Cummins demonstrated the viability of the diesel engine, setting speed and endurance records from Daytona Beach, Fla., to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where the first Cummins entry ran the entire 500 miles on a single tank of fuel. A Cummins racecar later became the first and only diesel ever to win the pole position at the Indianapolis 500.

In 1931 Cummins set out to prove the viability of his diesel engine for commercial use in trucks, with a coast-to-coast nonstop run from New York City to Los Angeles. It was during this trip that Clessie Cummins got the inspiration for his later development of the compression brake, made famous by Jacobs®.

By the 1950s, America had embarked on a massive interstate highway construction program, with Cummins engines powering much of the equipment that built the roads and the thousands of trucks that began to roll down them. Drivers demanded economy, power, reliability and durability, and Cummins responded. By combining lab-based research and field-based trials, including dramatic performances at the Indy 500 races, Cummins achieved technological breakthroughs, including the revolutionary pressure time (PT) fuel injection system of 1954. By the late 1950s, Cummins had sales of over $100 million and a commanding lead in the market for heavy-truck diesels.

Throughout the remainder of the 20th century and into the 21st century, Cummins expanded its global operations, and was one of the first multinational companies in the transportation industry with joint ventures in India, China and other emerging nations.

Cummins is a fully integrated company that designs and manufactures key components such as turbochargers, filtration systems, electronic engine controls and aftertreatment systems. This allows the optimization of the engine and powertrain, so your customers get cleaner running, more responsive, more fuel efficient engines that are unmatched in industry. Ninety-five years after its inception, Cummins is the largest independent engine manufacturer in the world.

To learn more about the many innovative technologies invented by Cummins, and all the various types of applications that are served by Cummins dependable engines and products, visit the Cummins History page at


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