Borderland Science ( March-April 1989 ) -- Report by Edward O'Brian ( patent attorney, retired ) ( PDF )
New York Times ( Sunday, February 26, 1928 )
"Fuelless Motor Impresses Experts"
W.B. Stout Says, Invention Works Uncannily --- Washington Thinks Itís Important ~ Built On A Radio Principle ~ Armature Winding New -- Invention Inspired By Young Son -- Lindbergh Flies Here
Detroit, Mich, Feb. 25 -- W.B. Stout, head of the Stout Air Lines and designer of the all-metal tri-motored Ford Monoplane, declared here today that he had seen what he characterized as an "impressive" demonstration of the Hendershot fuelless motor two weeks ago in Pittsburgh.
Lester J. Hendershot, the inventor, and his associate. D. Barr Peat, who is manager of the Bettis Field at McKeesport, demonstrated the motor secretly yesterday in a hangar at Selfridge Field. This block test was witnessed by Major Thomas G. Lanspier, Clonel Charles A. Lindbergh and others.
It was explained today that the model used in the demonstration was a much smaller machine than an actual working motor capable of developing enough power to lift and propel an airplane. Its designers claim for it that it runs on an electromagnetic principle, bywhich it draws its force directly from the earthís field, and through the properties within the motor itself transforms these electric currents into power tha can be delivered efficiently at a propeller shaft.
Calls Demonstration Uncanny
"The demonstration was very impressive", Mr. Stout said. "It was actually uncanny. I would like very much to see how a large model designed to develop power enough to lift an airplane would operate".
Mr. Stout said the model he saw was about the size of the tiny motors used in vacuum cleaners.
"I was told that the revolutionary feature was a hereto unknown manner of winding the armature", Mr. Stout continued. "Hendershot said he had succeeded in winding it in such a way that it draws energy directly from electrical currents which exist constantly in the air or in the ground. Such sources of cheap and inexhaustible power, of course, never have been reached before. The small model appeared to operate exactly as Hendershot explained that it did".
Neither Colonel Lindbergh nor Major Lanphier would express themselves at length on the test they witnessed yesterday. Major Lanphier admitted, however, that they were experimenting with it and referred all questions to Hendershot.
"He is the only one who knows all about it", the Major said. "Lindbergh has nothing to do with it, although he saw it".
William B. Mayo, chief engineer for the Ford Motor Company, was in conference with Major Lanphier, Hendershot and Peat at Major Lanphierís quarters today.
"Invention Result Of Dream"
Hendershot Made First Fuelless Motor For His Sonís Toy Plane
The invention of the fuelless motor, tested at Detroit, was the result of a dream by its inventor, Lester Jennings Hendershot, who lives on "the street back of the railroad" in this town of about 3,000 inhabitants, 15 miles from Pittsburgh.
Although Hendershot was on his way from Selfridge Field today and is not expected home until tomorrow, his wife told of his conception of the machine and how the miniature model was constructed from the parts of a worn out radio which had been given to the inventor by his uncle.
Several years ago the vision of a machine which would operate from "earth currents" came to Hendershot in a dream, according to his wife, but it was not until last November that he actually started working on it.
His 4-year old boy had built a small airplane at that time and was considerably chagrined because it would not operate. The father was disturbed too, so he told his son he would build an airplane which would work. The result of that was the fuelless machine.
First Model Worked Toy Plane
When the miniature motor model had been constructed, Hendershot built a small airplane and placed the machine in it. A switch was turned and immediately the propeller began to move. The machie was not connected to any electrical current, but was running on is own accord from "earth currents".
For several weeks the little motor and the airplane rested upon a small table in the living room of the Hendershot home, which faces an unpaved street near the railroad tracks. One day D. Barr Peat of Bettis Field, the air mail port near McKeesport, Pa., visited the Hendershot home to see the model.
He immediately became enthusiastic and a few weeks later he and Hendershot were at Selfridge Field where permission was been granted to build a model large enough to operate an airplane.
Hendershot, who is only 29 years old, was born in Hyndmann, Pa. His schooling has not been extensive, although he spent a few months several years ago at Cornell University, where he took a few courses in mechanics. He has not been employed at any particular task and has been known as a "freelance" worker. He has been a fireman and an engineer on the railroad, has worked in the mills near Pittsburgh, has inspected concrete and done electrical work. During the war he was a bugler with a machine gun company, but did not get overseas.
Still Wants To See "How They Work"
According to his mother, he has always been interested in mechanics and when a child he would insist upon taking his playthings apart.
And that desire has not escaped him a man, for even now he takes his own sonís playthings apart to "see how they work".
It required only a few weeks for him to construct the miniature model of his fuelless motor, although he worked day and night during that time. He had a crude workbench in the cellar of his home, which was placed near the furnace, where it was warm. Early in the morning he would be there, tinkering about, and late at night he still could be found there.
Hendershotís idea was that the earth currents which make the aurora borealis in the skies could be harnessed by man and made to produce power that would operate an engine.
The youthful inventor has no other inventions to his credit.
"Works On Principle Of Compass"
Lester J. Hendershot first came to Bettis airplane field in McKeesport between two and three years ago, and soon afterward brought one of his motor models to the officers of the field for inspection.
The fuelless motor works somewhat on the principle of a compass, and the original model would always operate when pointing north or south, as does the compass, but would not move when pointed east or west.
Young Hendershot worked nearly two years to overcome this defect, and finally he brought a motor to the Bettis field that appeared to be working perfectly. This motor was installed in a small model airplane and the plane flew, but owing to the failure to rig it properly, it crashed to the ground during on of the experiments.
Constantly improving the motor, Hendershot finally interested D. Barr Peat, manager of the Bettis Field, in his invention.
After a short time several capitalist were interested, and a few weeks ago the motor was taken to Detroit by Hendershot and Peat for an exhibition.
While no person at the field was in position to say authoritatively, it was stated that the capitalists who become interested in the Hendershot motor have about completed their arrangements for the purchase of the invention, or for controlling its production.
The fuelless motor, it is said, appears to have tremendous power and easily made between 1500 and 2000 revolutions per minute on several occasions while being tested at the field. Pilots and mechanics believe it to be the greatest invention of the age, and all appear sure it will be a practical success as an airship motor.
It was stated at the field that the inspection of the motor by Colonel Lindbergh was made in the interests of the capitalists who were arranging to purchase the invention.
New York Times (February 27, 1928):
"Fuelless Motor Is A Generator"
The Hendershot "Fuelless motor" is not a motor at all but a generator, according to Major Thomas G. lanphier, commandant at Selfridge Field, Mich., where he with Lester J. Hendershot, the inventor, and D. Barr Peat, have been quietly working on an experimental model.
Major Lanphier said he first became interested in the Hendershot electrical machine several weeks ago through Peat; that in common with others he thought at first it was more or less "bunk" but after seeing it work he became interested.
"I saw the first model which Hendershot built hooked up to a small electric motor of the type used to operate a sewing machine. It not only ran the motor but it burned it out", Major Lanphier said.
Why this generator acts as it does, where the energy comes from that transforms it into power, Major Lanphier was not prepared to say beyond quoting Hendershot. It is the inventorís theory that his machine draws its energy from the earthís magnetic field. While unwilling to describe it in detail until pending patents have been received, Major Lanphier told a little about it. The first model consisted of a ring magnet less than three inches in diameter. Around the magnet were coils rigged as only Hendershot knows how to rig them, and another set of coils pass through the center of the ring.
"With this contrivance we burned out the sewing machine motor and we also kept a 6 watt lamp going with it for 26 hours", he said.
The larger model which has not yet been hooked to a motor that will deliver power to a crankshaft, Major Lanphier himself helped build.
"We put it together out of stuff we picked up at the field and with it we lighted two 110 watt lamps", Major Lanphier said. "I think that we have got enough electricity in this second model to kill a man".
The second model is built around a ring magnet, the outside diameter of which is seven inches and the inside diameter six inches.
It was suggested that perhaps the Hendershot engine was "stealing" power from some big radio broadcasting station.
"We thought of that", Lanphier said, "but we ran it for 26 hours when stations were going and when they were not and we got the same results".
New York Times ( November 12, 1928 )
"May Seek Motor Patent"
M. C. Kelly to Ask Five Scientists to Test Hendershot Device
Representative M. Clyde Kelly of Pennsylvania, it became known here today, plans to seek a Congressional patent for the "fuelless" motor of Lester J. Hendershot of West Elizabeth, Pa., if five scientists approve the invention as practical. A Congressional patent gives the patentee full protection for 17 years.
Hendershotís invention, which he describes as a "magnetic induction" motor, was first announced in March. At that time in some quarters it was regarded with skepticism.
The motor, according to its inventor, is without visible means of power. It obtains its initial impulse, Hendershot maintains, from a precharged magnetic core, and its secondary and greatest power impulse by magnetic induction from the earth.
Hendershot today said several of his motors had been built here, and that one, which developed 60 horsepower, had been in operation for two weeks without recharging the magnetic core.
New York Times (February 28, 1928):
"Explains Magnet In Fuelless Motor"
Hendershot Says Shifting Its Field To east And West Causes Rotary Motion ~ Winding Of Magnet Secret ~ Inventor Asserts Engine Weighs But 4 Ounces Per Horsepower
Mildly indignant because the manner in which his fuelless motor gains its power had been misrepresented in dispatches from Detroit and Washington, Lester J. Hendershot today stated there was nothing mysterious about his motor, that the force that energizes it is the "same force that pulls the needle of the compass, and there is nothing mysterious about that".
The fuelless motor was not his objective, he explained, at the time he began his experiments some three years ago, when he first became interested in aviation.
"I soon learned that the ultimate development o aviation depended upon the discovery or invention of an absolutely true and reliable compass", he explained. "The ordinary magnetic compass does not point to the true north -- it points to the magnetic north, and varies from the true north to a different extent at almost every point on the earthís surface.
"There is another compass, the magnetic induction compass, that indicates true north. But it must be set before each flight, and is not always reliable.
"I found that with a pre-magnetized core I could set up a magnetic field that would indicate true north, but I didnít know just how to utilize that in the compass I set out to find.
"In continuing my experiments, I learned that by cutting the same line of magnetic force north and south, I had an indicator of the true north, and that by cutting the magnetic field east and west, I could develop a rotary motion.
I now have a motor built on that principle that will rotate at a constant speed, a speed predetermined when the motor is built. It can be built for any desired speed, and a reliable constant speed motor is one of the greatest needs of aviation.
The main secret of Mr. Hendershotís invention, his Friend Barr Peat declares, is the method of winding a magnet in the motor so that it will rotate in the opposite direction than the earth revolves. He says there is no heat, because magnetic forces are cold and the motor is stopped only by breaking the magnetic field in the windings. The magnet in the motor, he thinks, probably would have to be recharged after about 2000 hours of operation.
Mr. Hendershot declares that one of his motors, complete and ready to be installed in an airplane would weigh little more than four ounces for every horsepower it developed, while the best of the gas engines now built weighs about two pounds per horsepower.
Mr. Hendershot says that altitude would not affect the efficient operation of his motor, for the magnetic influence of the earth has been found to remain the same as high as man has ever reached.
He said that the same principle which made his original model operate only when it was placed in one direction, north and south, will be developed so that it will provide a compass that will always indicate true north.