More on the Hettinger Engine Company

By Staff
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Howard Field's salvaged Hettingers being unloaded.
2 / 7
Hettinger engine owned by Jim and George Coombs,
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Where one of the engines was found.
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Hettinger engine in the collection of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.
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Field's large engine showing the freezing damage. Also note the mixing valve and the air preheater.
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Daniel Thomas's Hettinger purchased in Pennsylvania.
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Advertisement for Hettinger marine engines in 1924.

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.

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