Little Liz Gasoline Engine

Little Liz engine

Richard Thompson's Little Liz at Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.

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R.R. 2, Box 325, Crawfordsville, Indiana 47933.

I hope I have not left too many 'want to knows' out of this information on the Little Liz Gasoline Engine.

I traced down the patent number and located it in the state library. It was filed October 4, 1907, serial #395,886. This number is also in C.H. Wendel's En cyclopedia of American Gasoline Engines Since 1872, patent #883,688. The picture of the patent shows an upright cylinder engine (vertical). So this means that Birch & Birch had to make a change to a horizontal cylinder type engine before it went on the market. The change had to be made sometime between the patent date of 1907 and 1926, a lot of time! I could not find out much on Liz during that time.

This brings me to a little history on the Birch family. Birch & Birch that made the Little Liz were cousins, not brothers. Perhaps I should go back further in time.

This whole story started back in the 1800's, possibly late 1800's, starting with Birch Brothers Wabash Machine Works, located on Wabash Street of Crawfordsville, Indiana. There were three brothers, but only William M. and James Birch were proprietors of Wabash Machine Works. Wabash Machine Works was all owned and operated by the Birch family. Their sons and daughters also were in the business (a family business).

Later, approximately in 1892-1895, somewhere between these years, the business moved to 1001-1003 College Street. This is when John Hayes Birch (son of William M. Birch) and John Henry Birch (son of James Birch) were managers and owners of Birch & Birch Machine Works (remember, they were cousins and not brothers).

Their business now was acetylene welding (gas) machine parts, repairing of parts, and supplies of Model T parts, horse and buggy; they also did steam fitting, some casting and molding. The earlier years must have been when they gave some thought to the Little Liz engines.

The first business ad I found was 1926. But I also talked to a senior citizen, Mr. Snyder. He told me that it seemed like in the years 1923 to 1930 was when the Little Liz Gasoline Engines were made, but the business ads show from 1926 to 1930. This was the time shortly before the depression, hard years. The understanding that I have is that Birch & Birch wanted to build this little engine about 1? HP. They did foundry work so they cast the main housing and casting of the water hopper. They called Detroit, Michigan and talked to someone at the Henry Ford Company. They asked permission to use Model TOM Ford parts of the engine (parts of the TOM engine, such as rods, piston, valves, etc.). The Ford Motor Company told them they could use all the parts that they needed to build the little engine.

As you remember or have been told, the Model T Ford was also nicknamed Old Tin Lizzy. That is how the little gasoline engine got its name 'Little Liz' made by Birch & Birch of Crawfordsville, Indiana. After the housing was made, the main body, gears for timing and valve cams and push rods (arms) and the high tension Webster magneto were assembled. The magneto is the continuous turning type, timed with gears. The valves were put inside the water hopper through to bottom front of the cylinder. The valves are in separate chambers with sealed threaded caps in the bottom front of the water hopper. The cam and rocker arms are under the engine bottom side. The engine is the headless type.

It has a fuel mixer valve or carburetor on the same side as the spark plug which is mounted directly above the carb. The exhaust is on the opposite side of the carburetor. The magneto and timing gears are mounted on the opposite side of the carburetor also. The governor is mounted on the same side of the carb and plug side. The engine is a governed engine. The gas tank is mounted in front of the gas engine on the skid it sets on. The little 1? HP engine is made up with the standard Model T Ford piston, which is 3? inch diameter (bore) and the standard Model T Ford rod and crank has the stroke of four inches.

I located three of these engines. Two that I located had black and gold letters. I found these with the gentleman named George Riyman of Danville, Indiana. He has No. 1, the experimental or demonstrator engine, and also the No. 10, a later model. You can see on the side of No. 1, the experimental one, where they had the ignitor, ignitor trip pad mounting pins etc. and where they plugged the ignitor hole and made a hole for the spark plug and then used the magneto to the plug and did away with the trip assembly. The serial number is supposed to be on the top front of the water hopper or cooler.

The third one I found was at the Mt. Pleasant, Iowa show. A gentleman, Richard Thompson of Illinois, has it. His little engine is red with white letters. I might mention that the large numbers on the side of the engine are casting numbers. No. 22 is on the side of the water hopper. The flywheel had a large casting number and there were others. There were about 150 of the little engines made, I was told. This was by word of mouth because I could not find anything in writing to verify this statement.

Birch & Birch's selling price was about $ 120.00 per engine. I understood that Sears & Roebuck was selling small engines at $60.00 the same time as Birch & Birch. So Birch &. Birch, being undersold, stopped making engines because they were not selling.

I wish to thank Richard Thompson of Illinois for his pictures of his engines, and Mr. Snyder who lives in Crawfordsville, Indiana, for his much valued information. Also I want to thank the Crawfordsville librarians who helped me run down this information.

Also I want to thank Mr. George Riyman of Danville, Indiana, for his pictures and valued information. I know there is more information out in this engine world but where I don't know. I hope this will help the engine lovers of this one particular Little Liz engine made by Birch & Birch of Crawfordsville. Thanking all of those who helped in many ways.

Anyone in the engine world who has more information on this little engine, would you please send it to me?