Hettinger Engine Company of Bridget on, New Jersey

Original 1898 Hettinger engine.

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7964 Oakwood Park Court, St. Michaels, Maryland 21663.

On the north (New Jersey) shore of Delaware Bay is the Cohansey River, and about ten miles up the river is the town of Bridgeton. Old timers remember the Hettinger Engine Company in Bridgeton, with schooners tied to the dock for work on their Hettinger marine engines.

Henry Hettinger, the founder of the company, was a remarkable man. Henry's father, John H. Hettinger, was born in Zurich, Switzerland in 1840. John moved to Germany, where he met his future wife, Babetta Campf, while both were working at the Krupp Works. The couple immigrated to Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania where Henry, the second of four sons, was born in 1875. When Henry was a year old, they moved to Bridgeton, New Jersey, and John went to work for a cigar factory. As a boy, Henry showed mechanical talent and took a great interest in the machine shops in Bridgeton. In 1891, at age 16, while he was employed by the Getsinger Glass Works, he built a model steam engine which still is in the possession of his descendants. Next, he became an apprentice at the machine shop operated by Charles Crickler, making molds for glass bottles. Later employers were Cox Brothers and Company and the Ferracute Machine Company. He must have recognized the future of the gasoline engine and decided to go into that business for himself, for in 1898 he opened the Hettinger Engine Company and built his first engine. That first engine still exists, and is a hopper-cooled horizontal stationary engine; see Figure 1. 1898 was a most important year for another reason-he married Mary El-well of nearby Haddonfield, N.J.

Hettinger's business prospered, and by 1910 he employed 70 to 100 workers. Figure 2 shows the factory building in 1910, and Figure 3 shows the interior. Figure 4 is the cover of his 1911 catalog. The catalog lists these models:

HP

CYL

BORE

STROKE

6

1

5?

6

9

2

4?

6

12

2

5?

6

18

2

6?

8

24

4

5?

6

30

2

8?

10

36

4

6?

8

60

4

8?

10

Lines were drawn through the specifications of the 30 and 36 HP models. Hettinger must have dropped them after the catalog was printed. Figure 5 shows the 6 HP model. All the engines had enclosed crankcases. All had cam-operated intake valves except the 9 and 18 HP models. The buyer had a choice of either make-and-break or jump-start ignition. There is a statement that they also built gasoline hoisting engines, dredge winding engines, and stationary engines. One of the hoisting engines is in the collection of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum; it is a horizontal hopper-cooled engine with 5? x 8 bore and stroke.

Henry Hettinger had another enthusiasm-flying. The Aero Club of Pennsylvania was formed in October 1909, as a result of a flight of a Curtis plane at Point Breeze in South Philadelphia. Hettinger was one of the club members. The objective of the members was to build their own planes, and he did just that. The 40 HP six cylinder engine was built by the Hettinger Engine Company. Mary sewed the fabric wing covering; she is with the plane in Figure 6. The details of the airplane and its flights are in the Spring 1989 issue of South Jersey Magazine, in an article by Bill Chestnut. Hettinger made many short flights, the later ones after he had converted his plane to a seaplane. A crash in 1911 ended Hettinger's interest in flying. For years, parts of the plane were suspended high in the factory.

Figure 7 shows Henry and Mary Hettinger with their children. Figure 8 is of the December 1914 banquet of Hettinger employees, and Figure 9 shows the company letterhead.

Returning to the Hettinger products, there is a list of their marine engines in an issue of Rudder Magazine in 1919. Changes from 1911 are: a 25 HP, two cylinder, 7? x 9 engine replaced the 24 HP model; the 36 HP model is back in production; and a 50 HP, four cylinder, 7? x 9 model replaced the 60 HP engine. All 1919 Hettinger engines had Atwater-Kent jump spark ignition; make-and-break was not available.

The drawings of the Hettinger engines still exist in the hands of a private collector; the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum has photocopies of most of them. Included are drawings of two engines that replaced the early 9 and 18 HP models. These drawings are marked 22D and 22F. There is no doubt that D and F stand for Double-cylinder and Four-cylinder. I believe that 22 means that they were 1922 redesigns. The engines probably were redesigned to provide cam-operated intake valves. Also, the 22 D and 22F had the cylinders cast in pairs, whereas the designs they replaced had individual cylinders. The 1922 crankcase designs were most unusual. They were not split at the crankshaft center line. Instead, there were slots in the ends of the crankcase so that the crank could be inserted. Extensions above the main bearing caps closed the slots.

Today we see tolerances for every dimension on a drawing. It is interesting that the Hettinger drawings have no tolerances. All dimensions are in fractions of inches; fits seem to have been decided by machinists. None of the drawings are dated. A very few bear a draftman's initials, but they aren't Hettinger's.

Henry Hettinger died of cancer in 1931 at the early age of 56. Mary lived on until 1971. After his death, the factory was purchased by Roscoe Tullis and John M. Davis, former employees. After Tullis died in 1935, Davis continued to operate the business. Eventually, the site was bought by W. Floyd Dill, who later sold it to Hunt-Wesson Foods. They demolished the old factory to make way for a warehouse.

I am grateful to Bill Chestnut of Bridgeton for sharing his information, collected for his article on the Hettinger airplane. He interviewed two Hettinger daughters in 1989; both were over 80 years old. Jerry Dunn of Wilmington, North Carolina, kindly gave me access to his 1911 catalog.

I would like to hear from readers who own Hettinger engines.