Purrfect Timing for Another Kitten Steam Engine

Possibility of a museum spurs purchase of a Kitten steam engine.

| Summer 2006

The Florens Kitten family was born in Prussia in 1840. When Florens was 10 he moved with his family to the United States where they settled in a promising Indiana farming area near Ferdinand. Florens helped his father on the farm until he was 19, then for six years he worked as a carpenter. It was at the end of this period that the name Kitten began to spread in popularity.

Florens was the founder of the Ferdinand Foundry & Machine Works. He started by building steam engines and steam threshers in the second floor of his home around 1880. On May 29, 1889, he filed an application with the United States Patent Office to receive the patent rights for his steam engine, thresher and sawmill. This patent no. 409,594 was granted on Aug. 20, 1889.

Soon, area farmers saw the need for his equipment, and he needed a bigger building. Florens constructed a two-story factory and foundry adjoining his home.

The first engines built used an upright boiler, but soon he started building a horizontal-type boiler; both were horse-drawn. After several years he started making traction engines, which was a big improvement as now farmers could move on their own, pulling their threshers and machinery from farm to farm. The primary use of steam engines was for belt power, but at times they were also used for field and road construction.

From the 1880s through 1940, Kitten built a total of 224 engines. Most of these engines spent their working days within the tri-state area, as moving heavy equipment in those days was not easy. The total weight of the Kitten engine, fully loaded with water, tools and coal, is 17,025 pounds.

The Kitten engine used a 25 HP boiler with a return-flue design. It was a rather unusual engine as the cylinder was mounted on the right and the flywheel/belt pulley was on the left. Kitten designed the short return-flue boiler because he thought it would perform better in the hilly farming area around Ferdinand and southern Indiana.