A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE WITTE COMPANY
August Witte, organized The Witte Iron Works at Kansas City in 1870. His son, Ed Witte, served his apprenticeship in the foundry as a brass moulder, iron moulder, machinist, metallurgist, and finally as a steam engine designer. By the time August Witte retired in 1886, Ed Witte had already built a crude but workable gas engine using hot tube ignition. Company records indicate, however, that actual production of the Witte Standard and Star engines did not begin until August, 1894. Witte standard and Star engine styles were built until November, 1914. A 1900 catalog indicates that these impressive sideshaft engines were available in 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 15, 20, 25, 30, and 40 horsepower sizes for stationary use. Portables could be supplied in any size up to and including 25 horsepower.
In 1911, Witte embarked on an entirely new engine line. The model of simplicity, these engines were the first Witte models to carry the walking-beam valve mechanism that characterized the entire Witte line until November, 1923. Engines available in 1916 included portables in 2, 6, 8, 12, 16 and 22 horsepower sizes.
Witte's Junior Engine Series (known affectionally as the "headless Witte") included the cylinder and base in a single casting. Likewise, the cylinder head was integral, eliminating problems from leaky gaskets and lowering production costs. Both valves were located in a single casting that was easily removed from the cylinder for occasional repairs. In 1913, engines in the Junior Series were available in 2, 4, 6, 8, and 11 horsepower sizes.
Witte Company continued to innovate. A new
volume-governed engine was released in 1922, followed by
and C built from 1922 to 1927. Types F and H were introduced in 1927
followed by Types J and K and the popular 1 1/2 horsepower
As a mailorder merchant, Ed Witte had few equals. His catalogs rank among some of the most colorful and explicit in the entire engine industry. Sumptuous three-color illustrations of the engines certainly were a boost to sales, and the technical data was written in the language of the farmer. For example, Witte's 1916 catalog attempted to allay the fears of prospective customers by noting that anyone could be his own mechanic just by reading the Witte instruction manual. To illustrate the point, a catalog illustration depicts the method of checking ignition timing. By using any available straight edge, it was quite simple to line up the fly-wheel mark with the top of the water hopper. Ignition occurred precisely at this time, and by removing the spark plug and laying it on top of the engine, anyone could easily determine whether the ignition timing was properly adjusted. Similar explanations were included for valve and carburetor adjustments.
The Witte Engine Company was purchased by the United States Steel Company in 1944. In 1966, the company began operation as a privately-owned entitiy. In 1970, the company moved to Olathe, Kansas, 25 miles south of Kansas City.
The above information is from: "American Gasoline Engines Since 1872", by C. H. Wendel, pp 557-560.