WHO BUILT THE FIRST GASOLINE ENGINE IN THE UNITED STATES?

Charles H. Wendel Atkins
January/February 1973
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We commend the Antique Mechanics Club of University of California, Davis for their efforts in restoring the Regan Engine (see article in Nov.-Dec, 1972 issue of GEM). However, the article concerning the Regan engine prompted some research on our part as to who really did build the first gasoline engine.

Wm. Robinson in his book 'Gas and Petroleum Engines' published in 1890 states that in 1872 a patent was issued to G. B. Brayton of Philadelphia, the engine being called Brayton's Ready-Motor. The first of these engines was marketed in 1873, and was tested in New York by Prof. Thurston of the Stevens Institute of Technology. In 1878 this engine was introduced into Great Britain by Messrs. Simon of Nottingham.

A pump was used to compress air and force it through a series of perforated brass disks and materials exposing a large surface of petroleum in a separate cylinder so as to thoroughly vaporize the fuel.

Probably the first practical GAS ENGINE (as apart from those using petroleum for fuel) built in the United States was that invented by Dr. Alfred Drake. He commenced experiments in 1837 and was granted Patent No. 12715 in April 1855. This engine was exhibited in Philadelphia in 1843 and again with improvements in New York's Crystal Palace in 1855.

In further reference we note that quite a number of patents were issued to D. S. Regan, there being no doubt that the engine was probably successful at that stage of the art.

It is hoped that the Antique Mechanics Club at UCD will not be distressed at my contradiction of who built the first engine. Who knows? Maybe some of the boys out around Philadelphia will dig up an early Brayton or a Drake engine!! Happy hunting fellows.

I am sending two views of a little model upright engine I built two years ago. One snapshot is of the parts before it was assembled. It was fabricated from stock materials, the only castings were the flywheels that I found in a junk yard. They were 6 inches in diameter, I built them up to 8 inches for added weight. It is 1 3/8 inch bore, 2 inch stroke, hit and miss fly weight governor, buzz coil ignition, water cooled, thermo syphon, radiator and fan. Gas tank in base, eccentric driven fuel pump.

This little engine was on display at the Missouri Valley Steam Engine Show at Booneville, Mo. and the Ozark Hills Steam and Gas Engine Show at Ulman, Mo. the last two years.








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