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Help with ID (Hartzell? and J. Lee Simmons)

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  • Help with ID (Hartzell? and J. Lee Simmons)

    Hi all,

    I have come across two old wood propellers, one is made by "J. Lee Simmons Wash. D.C." and it still has the gears attached to it. It looks really old and the guy I bought it from said that he thinks it was made in the 1930's. It is pretty broad and about 8 ft in length. It looks like it was made from 5 long pieces of wood laminated together. The only other thing I found is a stamp engraving of a "D80" on it.

    For some reason I think the second one was made by Hartzell, but not sure if this is true. I was told that it is WWII era. It is also about 8 ft in length and it has metal plates on the leading edges with rivets. It looks like it was made from 8 pieces of wood laminated together and it has 8 holes for the bolts. No markings on it except for a "1" on one side and a "2" on the other. There are also a set of numbers near the top of the bolt holes that say "36019".

    I cleaned both up slightly and am thinking of putting a coat of linseed oil on them.

    Any help with ID/age would be greatly appreciated.

    I'm also looking for someone that could restore them professionally. I'm in the central New Jersey area.

    Thanks in advance.
    Attached Files

  • #2
    Welcome to the Forum Tarsal Claw,

    The gear, etc. attached to the Simmons prop doesn't look to me like anything I've ever seen on an airplane. Mystery stuff. Would you post a picture showing the paraphernalia head on so we can see the bolt holes or however it's attached? That may help.

    I cannot tell by looking if your other prop is a Hartzell or not. So many props of various manufacturers of that era look identical. I've found that both Hartzell and the other major manufacturers were very careful to stamp their names into the wood. They are/were justifiably proud of their products.



    • #3

      Sorry it took me so long to reply, the pics took me longer to get together.

      I have attached them below.

      Attached Files


      • #4
        Here is a few more pics
        Attached Files


        • #5
          I don't know what you have with the geared hub propeller, but it needs to be researched somehow, as it might be a very early model chain driven model. I wouldn not try to do anything to it until you get a better idea of its origin. It may be very rare and valuable as is. Suggestion: check to see if Jeremy Kinney is still the curator of propulsion at the National Air and Space Museum and contact him with good photos. (I'll try to PM you his email address.) If he's not there someone else should be able to help.

          I think the second "Hartzell-like" prop isn't nearly as intriquing as the other one, nor as potential valuable.


          • #6
            Thanks Dave!

            I did put a light coat of boiled linseed oil on both just to prevent further rust and help preserve what is already there. Hope that was okay.


            • #7
              Originally posted by Tarsal Claw View Post
              Thanks Dave!

              I did put a light coat of boiled linseed oil on both just to prevent further rust and help preserve what is already there. Hope that was okay.
              I think that is OK, but am not even sure about it.


              • #8
                UPDATE Help with ID (Hartzell? and J. Lee Simmons) UPDATE

                Hi Dave and others,

                I did reach out to the SI and yes, Dr. Jeremy Kinney is still there.
                One of his volunteer colleagues (Mr. Howard Wesoky) was able to do some research on the J. Lee Simmons prop that I have.

                This is what he sent me back last week:

                "Jeremy’s PhD dissertation includes the following:

                “Two of the pioneering American propeller companies originated in the District of Columbia during the 1909-1910 period. James Lee Simmons began designing, experimenting, and making propellers at his Washington Aeroplane Company factory located on Water Street in the southwestern area of the district. By 1913, the company manufactured a line of “Columbia” monoplanes, biplanes, and flying boats based on European and American designs. Like other early aircraft manufacturers, Simmons also fabricated Wright-type propellers for $100.00 ($1,800 in modern currency) a pair as well as variations of Chauviére and other French designers in two-, three-, and four-blade configurations.”

                The Museum’s archives include small files for Simmons propellers, as well as each of the Columbia aircraft types. However, I believe very extensive research will be necessary to specifically identify your artifact. I’ve not previously had very good results for such investigations, but am willing to try if the above information is not adequate for your needs. And the archives are available for your own investigation whenever you are in the Museum’s vicinity.

                Hope this helps,


                Thanks to you guys for leading me to them. I now know more about this prop than I did previously. Unfortunately, I need more information on historical significance and value. But I'm pretty happy to know anything at all.

                Thanks guys!


                • #9

                  The less you do with that now the better. If I were you I'd seriously consider a trip to the NASM to do a little more of the research on it, maybe even carting the prop along with you. You can probably meet up with Jeremy as well, and maybe get his opinion on preservation at the same time.

                  Keep us posted.


                  • #10
                    Thanks Dave.

                    Yes, I will definitely consider that.

                    I'm glad I didn't take out the sand paper and paint!

                    I did wash it down and put a coat of linseed oil on it though, as I mentioned before.

                    Wood looks much darker now, but I hope it will help preserve the prop for much longer.
                    Attached Files


                    • #11
                      I don't think that's going to be a big deal, any more than simply waxing it. The important thing, IMHO, is not to remove any of the original surface with sandpaper, paint stripper, etc.