The Kitten Engine AND A Kitten Thresherman

Mr. Florenz Kitten

Mr. Florenz Kitten, builder of the Kitten engine. This picture should have been with the Kitten article of the May-June issue but for two good reasons we were not able to do it.

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North Terre Haute, Indiana

Away back in 1951 Robert sent us this story and somehow it got sidetracked. As we never destroy anything it turned up after we had the story of the KITTEN in the ALBUM last issue. This is a very interesting article and shows some work on the part, of Bob. We apologize and say thanks to him. - ELMER

I AM WRITING THIS ' story as told to me by Joseph F. Lueken of Ferdinand, Indiana. He (Joseph Lueken) is now only 49 years of age. He started working in the Kitten Machine Co., in November of 1922 until November 1927 and helped in building the Kitten engine. Joseph helped to roll the boiler and punch holes. When the engine was completed he painted and decorated them. The governor had three colors-red, yellow, green - boiler, black, tank gray, (that is the water tank in front of the boiler), tool boxes and the platform red, valves were bronze, some parts of the engine were aluminum, Pitmans were red with green trimming, the spokes of the fly wheel were in three colors, red, yellow, green, and the rim was green. They would give the boilers a cold water test when finished. They would only give it 5 to 10 pounds more on water than steam as they said cold water was so hard on a boiler. Sometimes they would run it up to 40 or 50 lbs more. The weight of the engine entirely equipped with water, tools, coal and jacks, is 17,025 lbs. All the patents of the Kitten machinery were those of Joseph Kitten the founder of the factory. Mr. Kitten started building engines around 1880. He first used an upright boiler then went to the marine type boiler which was horse drawn. Then his first traction engine was of high geared road speed. Then the ones that are now in use which will do about 6 or 7 mph when wide open. There were 246 of these later type engines built. The last engine was built in 1940 and sold to Mr. Lueken in June 1942 for $2,550. It is a 25 hp. engine and he uses it in his sawmill. The Kitten factory also manufactured complete sawmill outfits and separators. The separators were all wood, 36 in. cylinder and 60 in. separator belt driven blower. The separators sold for $1,800 complete with a Ruth feeder and Hart weigher. The factory still has some repair parts for the engines and separators. Mr. Kitten died around 1920. The factory now belongs to Sterling Bros. They used to be at Rockport, I11. They now make truck beds and do general repair work, plumbing and heating. I hope to get more information on the factory in time.

Joseph F. Lueken bought his own rig around 1927 when he quit the Kitten factory. He bought a used outfit from the Herbert Grew and Co. Threshing and sawmill outfits. It was a 22 hp. Kitten engine and a 36x60 Kitten separator. This engine No. is either 67 or 76. It was built in 1904. In 1932 he started threshing about the middle of June and threshed to Sept. 3rd and lost only about 2 days from rain. That season he threshed 80,000 bu of grain. Around 1934 he had his engine rebuilt-new and larger boiler, had the cylinder rebored, and put in a larger piston. They then called it a 25 hp. engine. I do believe it as it had more than enough power to pull the 36x60 separator with 130 lbs. of steam. In 1938 he bought his second separator, a new Kitten, and he rented an engine from a neighbor by the bu. threshed until he bought the new Kitten engine in 1942. I'll back-track a little-in 1939 with the two outfits they threshed 120,000 bu. which is the most they ever did in one season. He used his new engine only three seasons to thresh with as he couldn't do without it from the sawmill through the threshing season. After this he bought an International Diesel tractor to pull one of the separators. This year 1951 he used the steam outfit about 10 days and the tractor outfit about 7 or 8 weeks. Mr. Lueken also has a Victor clover huller. It came from somewhere in Ohio. It has a 36 in. cylinder 12 in. diameter. That's all he could tell about it. (Maybe some one in Ohio could give us some information on the clover huller). He always does his own repairing, painting and varnishing. And believe me those separators look as if they just came from the factory. His first engine is now 47 years old and runs like a top. It has a musical exhaust all its own, incomparable to that of any other engine. I have a fine taps recording of this engine threshing, about 30 min. of it. I sure enjoy playing it to steam lovers.