Cliff Meyer's 1/2 hp New Holland, one of several in his collection.
A simple idea that worked: that's all it took to set the New Holland engine apart. The New Holland was a popular engine in its day, and remains popular with a core of avid collectors more than 100 years later.
The New Holland Machine Works was founded in 1895 in New Holland, Penn., by Abram M. Zimmerman. Zimmerman trained as an apprentice at the Ezra Landis Machine Works in Lancaster, Penn. He then worked for P.E. Shirk, operator of the Blue Ball (Penn.) Machine Works, which later produced the Shirk tractor.
Zimmerman's company was established on Luther Avenue (now North Railroad). Initially, the company focused on engine repair. But by 1897, the company developed its first real marketable product: a corn grinding mill with sandstone grinding wheels. Soon after, New Holland began production of hog troughs and water tanks.
New Holland was rebuilding secondhand engines when, in 1898, the company became a dealer for the Columbus Gas Engine. Many of the early Columbus engines ran only on natural gas, making them useless to the farmer who had no access to city gas mains. Sensing a market for engines to power the mills he was already producing, Zimmerman created a device converting the engines to gasoline.
A year later, he applied for (and received) a patent for a cob grinder with an adjustable grinding plate. That machine proved very popular, and was built by New Holland into the late 1920s.
By 1901, Zimmerman had built his first gas engine: a 1 1/2 hp engine based on the Otto Cycle Principle. Because most small engines of the era were water cooled, Zimmerman sought to develop one that was freeze-proof. The lowly hog trough produced by New Holland in its earliest years may have provided inspiration for the engine's unique feature: a V-shaped water hopper created expansion space for ice, thereby preventing broken castings in freezing temperatures. Zimmerman was quick to secure a patent on his 1 1/2 hp 'freeze proof' engine, a model that would become popular on the farm and, years later, with collectors.
'It's an oddball,' collector John Kreider, New Holland, readily admits. 'With that trough-like hopper ... there's no other engine like it. It's a simple idea, but it worked. It's the only engine you could leave out in the weather, and go put warm water in it, and it'd start right up.'
More space and capital were needed to produce the new engine and meet the high demand for cob mills. In May 1903, the machine works was incorporated into the New Holland Machine Company. The new company began business in May of that year with $50,000 capital. New facilities were constructed on Franklin Street along the railroad. Also that year, Zimmerman won a patent for his engine's unique hopper design.
Zimmerman took a conservative approach to production. His New Holland engines appear to have been produced in small batches. After the parts were machined, the machinists assembled units as sales dictated.