Jerry Kitten, descendent of Florenz Kitten, engine manufacturer,
is still on the trail in his search for other Kitten engine owners
and more information about the company.
Some photos from the Kitten family album include: At left, a
Kitten engine and a port able in the background) in front of
Florenz Kitten’s home.
Most recently, Jerry sent us copies of pages taken from the
Kitten record book. The records we saw appear to start in September
of 1907 with engine #148, originally sold to William B. Brubeck of
Newton Stewart, Indiana (and as of March 1973, the engine belonged
to Inez Plasterer of Huntington, Indiana). The last engine entered
is #216, in July 1926, sold to James Neukam of Shoals, Indiana.
Each page records an engine, and the buyer along with various
specs. There were about 25 engines listed in the portion sent to us
and although Jerry knows the current owners of several, he is still
hoping to complete the list.
The Kitten business was apparently begun by Florenz in 1868. He
made a horse drawn thresher that was really a combine. Next, he
started making threshers and then steam engines. The factory also
manufactured complete saw mill outfits and water wagons. The last
thresher was made in 1935, the last steam engine was made in 1940
sold in 1942 and ran a Kitten saw mill in Ferdinand, Indiana for 30
years. Saw mills were manufactured until the late 1940s. One page
in the record book shows a new boiler made in 1940it appears from
the bill that making the boiler required about 575 man hours, and
the total bill for labor plus parts was just over $700!
The record book also indicates changes in ownership and repairs
made when engines were brought back. Most engines were upgraded
when repaired, to 25 HP. Originally the factory made 16, 18, 20,
22, 24 and 25 HP engines.
Some of the Kitten engines had a bent back axle for a lower
center of gravity some of these are still around. Also, the boilers
were assigned a HP rating one had a 30 HP boiler. One had a second
hand boiler installed. #208 was the last made with short water
tank, but other older models were retrofitted as they came in for
repairs. The factory averaged an output of five engines per year
from 1901 to 1925. As Jerry puts it, ‘One can tell the engines
were custom fitted to the customer. The factory’s theory was to
make something that the people needed not what it took to sell a
bunch of them, so the equipment was practical.’
One curiosity of the Kitten engines is that they were made first
with exhaust in front, then in back, with an oval-shaped boiler.
Later,’ they were made with exhaust in front and round
Jerry’s research has turned up 22 Kitten engines, 10 Kitten
threshers, 3 Kitten saw mills and a water wagon. He would be happy
to hear from anyone who owns Kitten equipment you can write to him
at Kitten-Mosely Fertilizer and Supply, Inc., Rt. 2, Box 6, Slaton,