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Hiram Am and us Frantz:

Author Photo
By Staff

Box 385, RD1, Pine Street Slatington, PA 18080

In the summer of 1976 I saw a huge one cylinder engine in
operation at the Blue Mountain Gas &. Steam Engine Meet at Jack
town, Pennsylvania. I learned that it was a Dieter engine rated at
15 HP, and that the present owner uses it to power a silo filling
blower. I was astonished at this use, but the owner assured me it
is a very reliable and powerful engine, weighing at least three
tons.

Evidently, several other Dieter engines are still in existence,
perhaps unidentified, as there are very few identification marks or
name plates on this make.

I soon realized that the Dieter engine was made by the Dieter
Foundry in Cherryville, Pennsylvania, a village that I can see
across the Lehigh River from my farm at Rising Sun. A former
neighbor of mine, Mr. Leslie Remaley had worked at Dieter’s
Foundry between 1930 and 1940, so I spoke to him about the Dieter
engine. He referred to it as a Frantz engine, saying that the
credit for its design should be given to a Rev. Frantz. He told me
the engines had no longer been in production when he worked there,
as a fire had destroyed the patterns, and demand for one cylinder
engines had dropped because electric motors and farm tractors were
in common use by 1930. Mr. Remaley referred me to a mutual
acquaintance, Hiram Frantz, who knows much about the early years of
automobiles and one cylinder engines used on the farm and in the
home. Mr. Frantz is the name sake of his uncle, Rev. Hiram Amandus
Frantz, and he unfolded this story:

The Reverend Frantz was born in 1864, near Schiedy, Lehigh
County, Pennsylvania, one of eleven children. The first known
evidence of his mechanical ability was a modification of a treadle
powered sewing machine. Rev. Frantz served as pastor of a church in
the Tamaqua, PA area from 1895 to 1900 during which time his wife
was injured and lost some use of her feet. To enable her to use a
sewing machine, Rev. Frantz designed and built a wind up mechanism
for her sewing machine so that she used her feet only to operate a
brake pedal. The sewing machine with its wind up mechanism is still
in the possession of Mr. Frantz. It was patented and marketed by
Rev. Frantz.

In 1900, Rev. Frantz became the pastor of churches at
Cherryville and Kreidersville, PA. He developed a close friendship
with Dieter’s Foundry owners and they gave Rev. Frantz an
outlet for his mechanical ability. Working together, with Frantz
designing and the Dieters producing, the one cylinder gasoline and
kerosene engines became a reality.

Now came the big challenge to Rev. Frantz, for some time between
1900 and 1905 there is evidence that he designed and built at least
one or more automobiles. Whether he did this himself, or with the
help of Dieter’s Foundry is not known, but he must have had
contact with another early auto concern, the Nadig Machine Shop of
Allentown, PA. Hiram Frantz remembers that his father, Tilghman
Frantz chided his brother, Rev. Frantz., for hitching only one
horse (one cylinder) to his car, when two or four horses
(cylinders) would do a better job and wouldn’t have to work so
hard!

Shortly after his experiment with a gas car, Rev. Frantz was
involved with the design of a steam car in Reading, PA. There is no
record of what make it was, whether or not it was successful, but
Rev. Frantz reportedly drove his gas car to and from Reading. The
burner on the steam car was apparently very efficient, the design
being not unlike the arrangement of the magnets on a model T Ford
flywheel, with many flame openings to heat the water. Mr. Frantz
remembers using a boiler of his uncle’s design on the farm
along with the gas engines to power machinery. Rev. Frantz also
designed a gas engine that did not have a crankshaft as we know it,
but rather a figure eight groove cut in a shaft, in which groove a
pin was moved by the piston, causing the shaft to revolve. Sadly,
Mr. Frantz recalls that he had a working model of this engine his
uncle designed, but like the farm’s gas and steam engines, a
sledge hammer destroyed it.

Shortly before World War I, Rev. Frantz designed a four wheel
drive mechanism, but lacking financial backing, and probably not
realizing its potential value, sold it for $800. His wife thought
the offer too low, but he said since very few people would be
interested in this invention, he would accept it. Who bought the
design is not known, but surely many army vehicles were built
thereafter based on Rev. Frantz’s idea. He frequently claimed
that many auto builders later used the same basic ideas that he had
used before 1905. He evidently decided it was cheaper to buy rather
than build an improved model car, and he owned a cross-engined
Franklin from 1910-1914. Hiram remembers riding in the real bucket
seats of this car, and recalls that Rev. Frantz and his wife moved
to Florida in 1914 for health reasons. The Franklin car, a horse
and some small farm machinery, along with their household goods,
were all loaded in a railroad box car for the journey. Rev. Frantz
died in 1936.

I am sure that more could be written about Rev. Frantz and his
inventions and if anyone has more information about him, it will be
greatly appreciated. If ever you have the opportunity to see a
Dieter engine, pause and think about Rev. Hiram Amandus Frantz, a
preacher and inventor who used his talents for both God and fellow
man.

Published on Sep 1, 1984

Gas Engine Magazine

Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines