Hettinger Engine Company of Bridget on, New Jersey

By Staff
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The factory building in 1910
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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.

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