The Ostenberg Engine

| June/July 2002

  • Ostenberg engine

  • Ostenberg engine

An Ostenberg engine at work, circa 1913. Ostenberg engines were designed and built by Swedish immigrant John A. Ostenberg in San Jose, Calif. Before starting his company in San Jose, Ostenberg was an engine designer and factory superintendent at the Abenaque Machine Works in Westminster Station, Vt., and his name appears on patents for the design of the first Abenaque engines. Ostenberg supposedly built engines ranging in size from 10 to 40 HP. The engine shown is thought to be a 15 or 20 HP unit.

This photo was given to me by my late pal, Henry Gerdts - he is the young lad up on the load behind the muffler. According to the details Henry gave me, this photo shows an ensilage cutting scene about 1913 on the Chase Ranch in east San Jose, near the present day Eastridge Shopping Center.

The engine is a twin-cylinder opposed Ostenberg gasoline engine built about 1905. The engine is either a 15 or a 20 HP model. The man pitching fodder into the cutter is George Young, and the lad watching him is Henry's brother, Herman. The man standing behind the cutter, barely visible, is a hired hand, Mr. Corry. The man in the foreground is Henry's father, Nicholas Gerdts. The photo was taken by Gretchen Gerdts, Henry's mother.

About 1910 or so Ostenberg sold the manufacturing rights to his engine to the Bean Spray Pump Co. located in San Jose. Bean renamed the engine the Bean Opposed Engine. A pal and I were able to purchase one of these Bean engines 10 days ago. More on our purchase later on.

Contact engine enthusiast Dick Hamp at: 1772 Conrad Ave., San Jose, CA 95124, or e-mail: