J. C. Hoadley & Co.

Portable steam engines

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Several years ago, IMA purchased a beautiful 1870 catalog of portable steam engines manufactured by J. C. Hoadley & Company of Lawrence, Massachusetts. We thought some further investigation into the company's history and the life of its founder might be of interest to our readers, since Hoadley is not included in Jack Norbeck's Encyclopedia of American Steam Traction Engines, or Floyd Clymer's Album, and is mentioned only in passing in Reynold Wik's Steam Power on the American Farm. These are three of our most frequently used references on American steam engine manufacturers. With the assistance of Robert Lovett of the Beverly Historical Society in Lawrence, we were able to obtain copies of original documents from the Baker Library of Harvard University's Graduate School of Business Administration and the Museum of American Textile History, which helped to tell the story presented below.

John Chipman Hoadley was born December 10, 1818 in Turin, New York, the son of a farmer. At the age of 18, he began working for an engineering party doing preliminary surveys for the enlargement of the Erie Canal. He soon became a draftsman and continued in this occupation until 1844.

At the end of 1844, Hoadley went to Lancaster, Massachusetts to work for Horatio and Erastus Bigelow who were engaged in constructing the extensive works of Lancaster Mills.

In 1848, accepting an offer of partnership with Gordon McKay, he went to Pittsfield and began manufacturing steam engines (for locomotives) and other machinery under the company name McKay and Hoadley. Business continued in Pittsfield for about four years.

Early in 1852, the two disposed of their firm and went to take charge of the large machine shop owned by Essex Company in Lawrence, Massachusetts. By 1858 this Lawrence Machine Shop, a separate entity, had failed apparently through fiscal difficulties, and Hoadley turned to the manufacture of portable and semi-portable steam enginesa class of engines little known in this country at the time.

Hoadley's engines were apparently so well designed and constructed that on the West coast where they were very popular, the name 'The Hoadley' became something of a generic term for portable steam engines.

During the Civil War, Hoadley went to New Bedford, Massachusetts, to run the New Bedford Copper Company, while the affairs of the steam engine company were left to associates. Soon after, the Lawrence firm was revived under the name J. C. Hoadley & Company, but he did not personally return to it until after 1866. Under his renewed attention, the business expanded and for several years was highly successful, selling many engines to Californians. By 1870 nearly 800 engines had been sold.

1873 brought a great decline in business and the company closed. However, another 'J. C. Hoadley Company' was organized, with $100,000 in capital derived from J. C. Hoadley (60%), George D. Cabot (20%) and Pardon Armington (20%). The purpose of the corporation was the 'manufacture and sale of portable steam engines and other machinery.'

Seventy engines were sold in 1873, 89 in 1975, 59 in 1875, and only 29 in 1876.

By early 1877, the company was apparently failing. At a March board meeting, a committee representing the company's creditors assumed management of the firm with J. C. Hoadley. In April of 1878, the committee of creditors was authorized to dispose of the property of both the J. C. Hoadley Co. and J. C. Hoadley. By May of 1879, the company had all but completed liquidation.

Hoadley was involved in endeavors other than his engine manufacturing business. In 1858 with Erastus and Horatio Bigelow, he organized The Clinton Wire Cloth Company of Clinton, Massachusetts. He was also a founder and president of the Archibald Wheel Company in Lawrence. He was one of the original trustees of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was a member of the state legislature, and in 1872 was one of the Electors of President of the United States.

He published two noteworthy pamphlets on steam power, one in 1863, The Portable Steam Engine, and one in 1884 which was delivered as a paper at the British Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Montreal, titled, Steam Engine Practice in the United States in 1884. In addition, he wrote numerous papers for the American Society of Mechanical Engineering, of which he was a founder.

Late in life, he worked as a consultant, and according to the Dictionary of American Biography, 'represented manufacturers or purchasers the tests of some of the most important mill machinery and water-works acceptance tests in New England and was a respected expert witness in many patent and damage litigations.'

The same Dictionary claims that Hoadley's engine was the first of the single-valve automatics with the governor at the side of the driving pulley and was noted for 'lightness, simplicity, durability and efficiency,' qualities which Hoadley himself claims in his introduction to the 1870 catalog.

John Chipman Hoadley died on October 21, 1886.

The following Description of the Portable Steam-Engine Cinderella is taken directly from out 1870 Hoadley catalog. The engine described was exhibited at the Fair of the Massachsuetts Charitable Mechanic Association in October 1869, where it received a gold medal, the highest award.


1. An attempt is made in this engine to superheat the steam mildly, yet effectually, and to secure all the advantages of a steam-jacket around the cylinder, with the utmost simplicity and increased economy. The principal means employed are,

First, Surrounding the cylinder by the waste gases, the products of combustion, on their passage from the smoke-box to the smoke-pipe; securing thus a 'smoke-jacket' instead of the well known 'steam-jacket.'

Second, Placing the feed-water heater in the smoke-box, below the cylinder, so as to reduce the temperature of the gases to a safe point before they reach the cylinder.

Third, Conveying the steam from the governor-valve, which is located within the steam-dome, through the steam-space, the whole length of the boiler, to the flue-sheet, and thence by a curved pipe through the smoke-box to the steam-chest; by which means it is safely yet thoroughly dried and slightly superheated.

2. In working out the details of the engine embodying the above leading ideas, several modifications, more or less novel, of existing forms have been introduced with good results. Some of them will be noticed in the following description.


3.  The boiler is of the ordinary straight-top locomotive form, having a fire-box 36 inches long, 23 inches wide, and 28 inches high, from the bottom of the hoop to the under side of crown-sheet.

The sides and crown of fire-box are formed of a single plate.

The roof of the fire-box casing, and the upper half of the barrel, are formed of a single plate, extending from the door-plate of fire-box casing to the extreme end of smoke-box,* and double riveted the whole length, on each side, to the undersheet of the barrel, and to the side-plates of the fire-box casing. The diameter of the barrel is 27 inches, and its length, from the fire-box casing to the end of the smoke-box, 66 inches. The water-space around the fire-box is 1 inches; length over fire-box casing, 41 inches; and the whole length of boiler, including smoke-box, 107 inches. The flue-sheets are inch, and all the other plates, inch thick.

The flues, 78 in number, are 1 inches diameter outside, and 4 feet, 6 inches long; and are arranged in squares, or in vertical and horizontal rows, inch apart: five horizontal rows containing 12 flues each, one row contianing 10, and the lower row 8.

4. The external circumference of these 1 inch flues is 3.927 inches, =0.327 feet, which, multiplied by 4.5 feet, gives the external surface-area of each flue, = 1.47 square feet; and the total area of heating-surface in the flues, 1.47x78 = 114.66 square feet.

The heating-surface in fire-box, above the top of bottom hoop, deducting the area of fire-door, 9 inches x 15 inches, and the area of the external diameter of the 78 flues, is 25.65 square feet.

The area of the front flue-sheet, inside of its flanges, after deducting the area of the external diameter of the flues, is 3.14 square feet.

The total heating-surface of the boiler, then, reckoning the external surface of the flues, is,

Fire-box ............... 25.65 square feet

Flues ..................... 114.6 square feet

Smoke-box ............. 3.14 square feet

Total .................... 143.45 square feet

5. It is usual to reckon the external diameter of the flues, as I have done above.

If we take the internal surface, the internal diameter being 1 1/16 inches, the area of the flues will be 17 square feet less; that is, 97.66 square feet, instead of 114.66 square feet; and the total heating-surface of the boiler, reckoning the internal surface of the flues, will be,

Fire-box ............... 25.65 square feet

Flues ..................... 97.66 square feet

Smoke-box ............. 3.14 square feet

126.45 square feet

Add difference between internal and external diameter of flues,

3/16 in.xpix4H ft.x78=.......... 17.00 square feet

Total, as before ................... 143.45 square feet

6.  The area of grate is

(36x23)/144 =5.75 square feet

The engine will not consume above 5 pounds of coal per horsepower per hour (a liberal allowance, as we shall see); so that there will be developed one horse-power for each pound of coal burned per hour on each square foot of grate. Having a good steam-blast, 15 pounds of coal per hour per square foot of grate is very moderate; 20 pounds not a rapid rate, and 30 pounds easily attainable. These rates of combustion correspond respectively to 15, 20, and 30 horse-power.

7. At the lower rate, there are 9.56 square feet of heating-surface per horse-power; at the medium rate, 7.14 square feet, and at higher rate, 4.78 square feet. The higher rate, namely, 30 pounds of coal per square foot of grate per hour, =172.5 pounds per hour in the fire-box; giving 30 horsepower, approaches the confines of ordinary locomotive practice, and may easily be maintained with good attendance. The lower rate, namely, 15 pounds of coal per hour per square foot of grate, =86.25 pounds per hour in the fire-box, is about the usual stationary-engine practice, making the engine 15 horse-power.

These computations relate to the boiler only; and the consumption of coal per horse-power per hour (5.75 pounds) is intentionally assumed high enough to show clearly that the boiler is quite sufficient for the duty required of it.

8. The internal diameter of the flues is 11/16 inches, and the corresponding area x 0.887 square inch. But, as a slight degree of sootiness would reduce the effective diameter 1/16 inch, I assume the clear area to be that due to 1 inch internal diameter, = 0.7854 square inch, which multiplied by the number of flues, 78 = 61.26 square inches, equal to the area of a pipe 87/8 inches diameter. This gives ample area for the discharge of smoke and gases, and insures a free draught.

9.  The kind of fuel burned, however, is an important element in this question.

The boiler above described was designed to burn pure, free-burning anthracite coal.

Bituminous or semi-bituminous coal would more rapidly obstruct the flue with ashes. Wood, requiring for the evaporation of a given quantity of water a larger volume of air, would demand greater area of aggregate cross-section in the flues for the passage of smoke. To meet these several conditions, flues of 1, 1, 2, and 2 inches diameter outside may sometimes be employed; and the corresponding heating-surface, and other particulars of the boiler, so modified, will be found in the following table:


Diameter of flues outside .

1 inches

1 inches

1 inches

2 inches

2 inches

Number of flues . . . .







Fire-box . . . . . . .






Flues. . . . . . . . . .






Smoke-box. . . . .






Total . . . . . . . . . .






Diameter of flues inside,

available for smoke .

1 inch

1 inches

1 inches

1 inches

2 inches

Aggregate area, sq. in. . .






Equivalent diameter

87/8 inches

91/4 inches

103/8 in.

10 in.

11 in.

Arrangement of flues . .



















It is probable that 1 inches will do best for anthracite coal; 1 inches for bituminous coal; and 2 inches, or 2 inches, for wood.

10. Arrangement of Engine. The cylinder is located over the smoke-box, and is formed with a flue, or passage for the products of combustion to pass around the cylinder on their way from the smoke-box to the smoke-pipe. The steam-chest being on one side, the gases envelop the bottom of steam-chest, about two-thirds of the circumference of the cylinder, and the top of the steam-chest. The remainder of the cylinder is in contact with the high-pressure steam in the steam-chest; and only the steam-chest cover, the ends of steam-chest, and the cylinder-heads, are exposed to the air.

11.  The blast-pipe is on top of the cylinder, and is very short, so that back pressure on the piston is avoided. As the exhaust steam is thus discharged directly into the chimney, compensation is found for its loss from the feed-water heater in a coil of water-pipe placed in the smoke-box, through which the products of combustion pass, after leaving the boiler-flues, and before reaching the cylinder. This makes a very efficient heater, and, at the same time, lowers the temperature of the smoke, so as to guard against heating the cylinder too hot.

Further protection is provided for, if required, by a shield of boiler-plate, of cast-iron, or even of fire-tile, around the exposed parts of the cylinder.

Nothing of the sort is found to be required in practice; an arrangement to be described further on having proved sufficient.

12.  Each pound of coal may be assumed to evaporate 8 pounds of water in the boiler, and to produce 14 pounds of mixed gases, carbonic acid, nitrogen, watery vapor, free atmospheric air; and, in cases of imperfect combustion, carbonic oxide and pure carbon, the mixture known as 'smoke.' The specific heat of this mixture, that of water being 1.00, is about 0.24; so that the heating power of the 14 pounds of gases will be sufficient to raise 3 pounds of water one degree for each degree lost by these gases. But only about 1/6 of the 8 pounds of exhaust steam would be condensed in raising the temperature of the same weight of water from 50° to 200°; and the same effect will be produced by lowering the temperature of the 14 pounds of gases 85°.

The temperature of water corresponding to 100 pounds pressure per square inch above the atmosphere, is, say, 340°. The gases, then, on emerging from the flues, must be at or above 340°, with usual working pressure of steam in the boiler; and will generally be about 400°.

To raise the feed-water from 50° up to 200°, will, therefore, reduce the temperature of the gases to about 315°; or, to take a safe range, from 300° to 400°, which corresponds with observed facts.*

13. Steam is taken from the boiler at the top of a steam-dome placed at the end of the boiler opposite the cylinder, over the fire-box. It is admitted to the steam-chest by a sliding starting-valve near the base of the dome, inside, operated by a hand-lever over the fire-door, and a rod passing through a stuffing box in the fire-box casing. But to reach this starting-valve, the steam must first pass through the governor-valve, a balanced Judson-valve, located within the dome, at the top, and controlled by a governor standing on the dome. From the chamber of the starting-valve, a pipe conducts the steam, reduced in pressure, and consequently in temperature at the governor-valve, through the steam-space above the flues to the smoke-box flue-sheet, whence it is conducted by an 'oxhorn pipe' to the under side of the steam-chest. This pipe is 2 inches diameter, and in all about 10 feet long, from the governor valve to the steam-chest.

14.  The reduction of pressure at the governor-valve of course varies constantly under the action of the governor; but will usually be about 30 pounds, corresponding to a reduction of temperature at the pressures ordinarily used, of about 20°.

The steam, then, on its passage to the cylinder, passes about 9 feet through an atmosphere of steam 20° hotter than itself, and about 1 foot through the smoke-box, at or above its own temperature, into a cylinder which is maintained at a temperature considerably above the mean of the working and exhaust steam, and little, if any, below the temperature of the thoroughly dried, slightly superheated initial steam. In so far as concerns that portion of the heat drawn from the surrounding steam in the boiler, the degree of economy resulting from this arrangement is exactly equal to that arising from steam-jacketed cylinders, without increase of radiating-surface; but it is believed that further economy is obtained by surrounding the cylinder with the escaping gases of combustion, otherwise wasted.

15.  To guard against injury to the cylinder or piston, from overheating, the following apparatus, referred to in Section 11, is introduced.

From the chamber of the slide starting-valve at the base of the dome, a small pipe extends down nearly to the crown-sheet of the firebox, so that its lower end is always immersed in the water. A small cock, inch diameter, is inserted in this pipe, with its plug parallel to the axis of the boiler; and a rod coupled to this plug extends through a stuffing-box in the fire-box casing above the fire-door, and below the rod of the slide starting-valve. A small handle, like a gimlet handle, on this rod, serves to turn it by, and to indicate the state of the -inch cock. When the handle is vertical, the cock is open, and a jet of water forced through the -inch pipe enters the valve-chamber under the whole difference of pressure caused by the action of the governor-valve. Entering the steam-pipe at a higher temperature than that of the steam inside, it speedily evaporates, so that no water appeared at the cylinder petcocks when this injection-cock was opened for experiment.

When the handle is horizontal, the cock is shut, and no water enters the steam-pipe.

*16. With considerable effort, a brisk fire, good draught, and the engine at rest, the cylinder was in one instance intentionally heated, in the course of an hour, to such a degree that a squeaking noise was produced by the friction of the piston on starting.

This noise almost instantly ceased on opening the injection-cock; and, after keeping it open three or four minutes, giving time for the current of steam to reduce slightly the temperature of the cylinder, the engine ran smoothly with the injection-cock permanently closed.

In this manner, by introducing a slight degree of moisture into the steam-pipe and cylinder, when required for lubrication, superheated steam may be safely and conveniently used almost all the while, and all danger of excessive heating obviated.

17.  The steam-gauge (a Bourdon gauge, made by the American Steam-Gauge Company, Boston), is arranged to indicate either the pressure in the steam-dome or that in the steam-pipe below the governor-valve, as required; thus showing at any time the extent of 'throttling' produced by the governor. This is managed by a two-way cock, admitting steam to the pressure-gauge from either one of two pipes, one entering the dome and passing down to the starting valve chamber, and the other opening into the dome itself.

18.  The safety-valve is placed at the top of a chamber on the side of the fire-box casing, and held down by a spiral spring pressed upon by the base of the whistle, which serves as a set-screw to regulate the pressure required to lift the safety-valve. When lifted, the escaping steam blows the whistle. To blow the whistle, the safety-valve is lifted by the whistle-lever. To the chamber above mentioned are attached the glass water-gauge, three gauge-cocks, and the steam-pressure gauge; so that all the indications required about the state of water and steam in the boiler are combined in this apparatus, which might be called with some propriety, a Pantaphane.

19. Two windows, dead-lights, or 'clear views,' are introduced into the door-plate of fire-box casing, one on each side, with their centres at the height of the normal water-line. Placed like eyes, these windows are eyes indeed to engine and engineer, showing at all times the exact condition of the water, not only as to height, but the rapidity of ebullition, priming, disturbance of level, transparency or turbidness,all with far more clearness than in an open vessel; as the steam-space is perfectly unclouded, and the glass entirely free from moisture of condensation.

Two thicknesses of plate glass, each inch thick, with a space between them, at once prevent condensation within, and provide against danger of fracture by cooling without. Placed in an oblique line, one above another, three or four of these high-pressure dead-lights would form a perfect water-gauge, showing all desirable facts concerning the state of the water, by no remote or secondary indications, but by direct inspection.

It is, perhaps, not too much to hope that similar 'clearviews' may yet be seen in every important boiler in the world.

20. The feed-pump is placed under the steam-chest, and driven by an arm extending down vertically from the side of the cross-head outside of the slides. The stuffing-box is, therefore, nearly under that of the steam-chest or valve-rod; and the valve-chambers and air-chambers are in front, at one side of the cylinder-head, which can be removed for inspection of piston without disturbing other parts, and with the utmost convenience.

The engine is set low on the boiler, only 5 inches from top of waist of boiler to centre of cylinder. When the boiler is lagged with wood, as in the present case, this is rather too low for convenience, and may be increased in future to 6 or 6 inches.

21. For the sake of simplicity, and in order to ascertain what degree of advantage was secured by the arrangement of boiler, steam-pipe, governor, and smoke-jacket above described, the steam-valve ordinarily used with our portable engines of the same size was employed.

This is a single-slide valve, with such lap and lead as to cut off steam at stroke (mean of the two ends of cylinder), and to close the exhaust at about 9 inches, or 7/8 of the stroke.

Much as this valve has in its favor, as its general use in the locomotive proves, there is no doubt that economy of steam may be obtained by other arrangements, though not without increased cost, and more or less complexity, for the most part fatal in portable engines. Sometimes, however, a sliding-valve on the back of the main steam-valve, driven by a separate eccentric, which may be adjusted with ease when the engine is at rest, to adapt the cut-off to varying conditions of use, may be introduced with considerable advantage.

Provision is made to introduce such riding cut-off valve, or to omit it, as may be desired; and if put in, it may be thrown out of use or brought into action at will.

22. The engine above described, having a cylinder 7 inches diameter and 10 inches stroke, was used, experimentally, for several weeks, to drive the machine-shop of J. C. Hoadley & Co., in Lawrence, Mass., which, with other work done by the same water-wheel, requires from 25 to 33 horsepower.

This work it performed, running at two hundred and seventy revolutions per minute without difficulty with careful firing and with a considerable degree of economy; but the data as to consumption of fuel are defective. It is believed, however, that it did not exceed 4 pounds of coal per horse-power per hour; and that, when running at 12 to 15 horse-power, this might be reduced to 4 pounds.

Still better results can doubtless be obtained with the improved valve-gear above mentioned.

23. The portable engines we have made during the twelve years since 1857, and sent (at the present writing, Feb. 3, 1870), to the number of 762, all over the continent, and to remote parts of the world, have gained a good reputation for efficiency, safety, durability, convenience, and general utility, combined with reasonable economy of fuel. It is hoped that no one of the good qualities of our engines, as hitherto constructed, has been lost or impaired in this new design. If this hope shall prove well founded, we shall expect to see this new engine eclipse its older rivals as much as its namesake in the fairy tale outshone her unnatural sisters. For many purposes the earlier type may always be preferred; but, in other cases, improved economy of fuel, and efficiency compared with weight, must give the preference to the 'Cinderella.'

24. The subject of efficiency compared with weight deserves, perhaps, a little more elaboration. Referring to the 'Table of Portable Steam Engines manufactured by J. C. Hoadley & Co., Lawrence, Mass.,' and dividing the weight in pounds in the 18th column by the effective power in the 19th column, we find the weight in pounds per horsepower to be as follows:






per HP


per HP





























No engines hitherto made have greater effective power in proportion to weight.

The weight of the 'Cinderella' is 4,500 lbs. The effective power, rated at 15 H.P., gives 300 lbs. weight per horse-power.

The importance of this consideration in engines for agricultural purposes must be obvious to all. An engine which can be moved from place to place on the farm with a single pair of horses, and which is able to do as much threshing, or other work, as another engine requiring two pairs of horses to move it about, must be preferred, if equal in all other respects.

Time, and the experience of our friends and patrons, can alone determine the relative merits of the two classes of engines. As all our engines are warranted satisfactory, or no sale, it is no less important to us than to the purchaser that the best engines should always be selected for the work it is to do; and we earnestly solicit the candid criticism, whether favorable or adverse, of all who may become interested in engines of our manufacture, either as owners, users, or engineers.