More on the Hettinger Engine Company

BRIDGETON, NEW JERSEY

Hettinger marine engines

Howard Field's salvaged Hettingers being unloaded.

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7964 Oakwood Park Ct. St. Michaels, Md 212663.

I must begin with a note about the proper pronunciation of Hettinger. The-inger of the name is pronounced as in singer, not with a hard G.

My Hettinger article in the December, 1991 issue of GEM was about Henry A. Hettinger and Hettinger marine engines. I concentrated on the marine engines, even though my first contact with the company was by helping to restore a Hettinger stationary engine for the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. Another reason for my neglect of them was that I had found no catalog or information on the stationary engines. The make is not mentioned in Wendel's book, American Gasoline Engines Since 1872.

At the end of the article I asked to hear from owners of Hettinger engines. I have heard from a few and all are owners of stationary engines. I have had no letters from owners of Hettinger marine engines. This might be expected, as the marine engines were mainly used on the east coast and cooled by salt water. Retired marine engines are easily destroyed by salt water rust.

The Hettinger hopper-cooled stationary engine in the Museum collection is coupled to a winch by a chain drive and the engine and the winch share a frame of five inch steel channel. The winch was made by the Strandburg Engine Works, Strandburg, Pa. The rig was originally on a barge and used for pile driving. Bore and stroke are 5 x 8 and flywheel diameter is 28 inches. It has an F-head chamber and a non-removable head. Removal of the intake valve cage makes the exhaust valve accessible. The owner had installed a Schebler carburetor instead of the Hettinger mixing valve. Hit-or-miss governing is by a pivoted weight on the flywheel hub. The cam gear has a contact for battery ignition via a vibrator coil. 'Hettinger Engine Co., Bridgeton, NJ' is cast in raised letters around the top of the hopper. The nameplate gives a serial number of 1300 and lists three patent dates: Nov 28, 1906, March 7, 1908, and March 10, 1908. I will discuss the patents later in this article. The restored engine ran very well.

One letter was from Jim Coombs and George A. Coombs, Jr. of Elmer, NJ. They are grandsons of Henry Hettinger and own a tank-cooled Hettinger stationary engine of 5 x 7 bore and stroke. It is coupled to a 'winder,' which is a winch used in oyster dredging.

Another reply was from Howard Field of Gloucester, VA. He owns two Hettinger stationary engines. The larger one came from a collapsed shed at an abandoned seafood packing house. It is hopper cooled and 75/8 x 8 bore and stroke. Freezing water had broken the water jacket off the cylinder head, but the engine seems repairable. His other Hettinger is tank-cooled and 4 x 7 bore and stroke. He found it in a land-fill dump.

Another reply was from Daniel B. Thomas, Jr. of  Weare, NH. He purchased his hopper-cooled Hettinger in Pennsylvania four years ago. The intake valve cage was missing so he made one that functions. Bore and stroke are 4 x 7 and the engine has 20 inch flywheels. There is a pinion on the crankshaft, probably for driving a winch or winder.

To summarize:

Owner

Bore

Stroke

Cooling

Museum

5?

8

hopper

Coombs

5

7

tank

Field

75/8

8

hopper

Field

4?

7

tank

Thomas

4?

7

hopper

Both large engines with 8 inch stroke were hopper-cooled, though there was a large difference in bores. The three small engines with 7 inch strokes had 4 or 5 inch bores and either tank or hopper cooling. Tank cooling makes sense around salt water where fresh water to top-up a hopper is hard to come by. Or perhaps they were directly cooled with sea water, with no tank. I do not have all the flywheel diameters, but it appears likely that the large engines have 28 inch flywheels and the small ones 20 inch.

Dan Thomas had identified Henry Hettinger's May 10, 1908 patent. It is 881,582, and it covers the governor and the ignition timer. I recently had an opportunity to search the Annual Reports of the Commissioner of Patents in the Patent Library of the Motor Vehicle Manufacturers' Association. I looked for patents by Henry Hettinger dated 1906 and 1908. 881,582 was in the 1908 book, but I found no others that could apply to the Museum engine. Very likely the other two were inventions by others and the Hettinger Engine Company had rights to use them. I did find patents by Hettinger not related to the engine. 822, 311 of May 17, 1908 was for a derrick. 884,387 of April 14, 1908 was for a toy. 834,576 of Oct 30, 1906 by Henry A. Hettinger and J. P. Bateman, assigned one third to L. B. Sharp of Bridgeton was for a lubrication system for the bearings in an electric street railway. I already knew from Hettinger's airplane experiments that he was a versatile inventor.

From Howard Field I learned about the original carburetion that was once on the Museum engine. It was a Hettinger-built mixing valve something like a Lunkenheimer. There was a carburetor air preheater around the exhaust pipe.

I would like to hear from others who own Hettinger engines or literature.

Here are some thoughts on the origin of the Hettinger family name. German names have meaning and relate to an ancestor's occupation, appearance, or simply the name of the town where he lived. Hettinger falls into the last category, I believe, as there are two small towns in Germany named Hettingen.

Jim and George Coombs are sons of Bertah Hettinger Coombs, eldest daughter of Henry Hettinger. As of die date of George's letter, Jan 17, 1992, his mother was 91 years of age. All three daughters of Henry Hettinger were still living. The family has a model steam engine that Henry Hettinger made when he was 16 years old.

Recently, I ran across a full-page Hettinger advertisement of 1924 (right). It shows the Hettinger wharf in Bridgeton.