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"
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
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.
"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
"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"
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
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.
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
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
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
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
New York Times (February
"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
"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
"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 )
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
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
"Explains Magnet In Fuelless Motor"
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
"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
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.