The Kitten Search


| May/June 1984



Kitten engine

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.'