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
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.