Abe founder of the New Holland Engine Company

An early but rare photo of Abe Zimmerman, founder of the New Holland Engine Company.

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Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania 17022

Here is a story about the early days of the New Holland Engine, made by the firm that is now Sperry New Holland in Pennsylvania.

In 1895, Abe Zimmerman of New Holland, Pennsylvania, started a machinery construction and repair business. At this time the Otto engine was already being manufactured in Philadelphia. Farmers couldn't use this vapor-gas engine because the farms were not connected to city gas mains.

Abe Zimmerman came to the rescue, designing a vaporizer which enabled the Otto engine to run on gasoline. Farmers in the New Holland area began to buy Otto engines.

Zimmerman also got permission to sell a newly-designed engine, the Columbus, which ran on gasoline and kerosene.

Zimmerman began thinking about designing an engine of his own which would be more reliable and easier to start. Most small engines were water-cooled and Zimmerman wanted to develop one that was freeze-proof.

He observed that cast-iron watering troughs in barnyards were 'tapered, to let the ice lift up harmlessly, in freezing weather.' Zimmerman designed an engine water jacket with such a taper, and secured a patent for his 'freeze-proof engine.

He also tapered his cylinder bores at the crankshaft end to get more wear from a set of piston rings. This reduced the pressure, and the wear on the rings in the low pressure end of the stroke.

In 1903 businessmen and farmers joined to begin a corporation to produce the new engine.

Thousands of New Holland engines were built. Output almost stopped during the depression and production was halted in 1938. The New Holland Machine Company was re-organized two years later to build the new automatic balers which had been tested in the fields of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.