REPRINT HOW Your Hobby Started Part 5

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This month we continue reprinting a series that first appeared in GEM in the March-April 1969 issue. Over the coming months, we will retrace engine history as presented by Carleton M. Mull. This segment originally appeared in the November/December 1969 issue of GEM.

The inventors had solved some of the principles of mechanical design, also details of carburetion and ignition by 1875; but there were many items on the engines requiring improvements to make them an efficient, dependable unit that could be put into operation for reliable power such as users were accustomed with steam engines.

By this time, the first three patents were issued by the United States to gas engine inventors. By 1880, there had been 18 patents issued and for the next five years it seemed like the gas engine had taken the imagination of the engineers and designers by storm, as there were over 300 patents issued. The next five years, from 1815 to 1900, there were no less than 600 patents granted. Interest in perfecting this type of power had its greatest impetus at the turn of the century when both automotive and stationary manufacturers of gasoline engines were organized.

Among the more prominent men who received the early patents in the United States were: Gottlieb Daimler, Nikolaus A. Otto, Dugald Clerk, C. W. Baldwin, John Charter, L. W. Hash, J. W. Raymond and G. Westinghouse.

Near the end of the century, such names in the automotive type of engine appeared among those who were receiving patents as Charles & Frank Duryea, R. E. Olds, A. Winton, J. W. Packard, L. S. Chadwick, H. A. Knox, E. A. Mitchell, A. Hayes, J. D. Maxwell, C. O. White, A. T. Stinson and W. E. Simpson.

The very interesting and fascinating story of the adventure of the automotive development in our country has been described by many writers. In this short history, I will try to confine the story to the stationary gasoline engine, avoiding too much repetition. There were a number of interesting side issues pertaining to the early companies building gas and gasoline engines.

Among the first manufacturers in these United States was The Otto Engine Company of Philadelphia. The first patent was issued to Nikolaus A. Otto in the U. S. in 1877 and the factory in Philadelphia was building various types of Otto engines before 1895. The production consisted of a small vertical engine in capacity of 1 to 3 HP. Horizontal units in sizes from 1 to 120 HP and an engine to drive electric generators up to 38 HP.

In the N. A. Otto factory at Deutz, Germany, Gottlieb Daimler had been in charge of the engineering and engine design office for a number of years. He and his friends, Wilhelm Mayback, had collaborated on engine experiments, endeavoring to improve the principle of the original atmospheric engine on which the first vertical Otto engines were built. They did not agree with Nikolaus Otto when he built his first compression engine and they felt that it would not be successful. Differences in opinions over 'Otto's New Engine' caused friction in the company and the two men left Gasmotoren-Fabrik Deutz Company and started a plant at Cannstatt, to develop a high speed engine that was later to power some of the first horseless carriages.

Hermann Schumm took Daimler's position as chief designer at the Deutz factory. Later, this man was sent to Philadelphia to start the American operations of The Otto Gas Engine Company. After some years of service for this company in the U.S., he was called back to Germany by Eugen Langen, Otto's partner, where he worked on the design of the 'Otto's New Engine,' as it was known.

In 1892, Hermann Schumm was granted his first patent in the U.S. He also took out several more patents, up to 1900. Later, he associated with A. W. Schleicher to build horizontal engines in this country. They were a heavy duty, well-built engine with flyball governor and resembled somewhat the Otto engine, where he got his early experience.

From Nikolaus Otto's and Eugen Langen's organization came such men as Daimler, Mayback, Schumm and others, whose experience with the first gas engine manufacturers contributed a great deal to the engine business.

Crossley Bros. of Manchester, England, were experimenting with gas engines in this era. They saw 'Otto's New Engine' and immediately made arrangements with the N.A. Otto Company to license and build this engine in England. Later, they developed and built large-size opposed cylinder engines up to 650 HP. Crossley Bros. later built gas producer units to furnish gas which was made from coal, for fuel for the large gas engines.

During the same period, was an inventor by the name of George B. Brayton, who built an engine using gasoline (or hydro carbon as it was first called) for fuel, and it was exhibited at Philadelphia in 1876.

Six years after N. A. Otto's first patent in the United States, John Charter of Sterling, Illinois, obtained patent No. 270,202 in 1883 on a gas engine. This early American inventor showed unusual originality in his engine designs. The engine, covered by the above patent, had a number of novel features. It had a closed cylinder with a packing gland around the piston rod, similar to a steam engine cylinder. However, it did not have a cross-head, which is customary construction with this type of cylinder. Instead, it had a scotch yoke and an outboard bearing through which the piston rod was guided on the engine cast iron sub base.



Actual HP

Indicated HP

Pulley Size

Speed RPM

Ship Weight

Price Complete w/ Water Tank

Price Complete Less Water Tank




12 x 4


1700 lbs






16 x 6








18 x 8








24 x 10








28 x 12








32 x 14








40 x 18



Special Prices on Application




44 x 20






48 x 24



Above prices are subject to a discount.

The cylinder head was entirely original in its design. It was arranged with a round plate centered just below the bottom of the main cylinder. This plate had four round openings, one of which was exposed to the atmosphere at the bottom of the rotating position, which moved ninety degrees on each revolution. As these openings rotated to line up with the power piston, it carried a fresh charge of air and gas for the next power stroke. The mixture was ignited by a jet of gas flame.

Under the same date, Mr. John Charter was granted patent No. 270,203. This engine also had many unique features in its design. Without long descriptive details, this engine was of an opposed piston type with an auxiliary fuel charging cylinder. Such a design bordered on the most modern diesel engines of today. However, he used the second piston only for valves, instead of the present two cycle, power piston of the O.P. diesel engines.

In 1884, he was issued patent No. 292,894 which further improved the auxiliary piston for porting the intake and exhaust. Five years later, he obtained patent No. 335,564, which further improved the mechanical application of the opposed piston. He continued his experiments and in June of 1887 secured patent No. 356,447 on a conventional type of horizontal engine with cast iron sub base and a fuel supply cylinder built under the power cylinder. This unusual idea was to charge the power cylinder with the fuel mixture, as he had not conceived the simple idea of the suction stroke. The ignition was by gas.

During these years, his son, James Adams Charter, was working with his father. From all these experimental engines came the ultimate simplified engine patent by James in 1892. It was also of horizontal construction with the customary cast iron sub base on which the cylinder was fastened and the main bearings and crank. It was one of the first stationary engines in the U.S. to use gasoline (hydro carbon) for fuel. The method of pumping the fuel from an underground tank to the mixing valve was used for the first time. There was an overflow at the mixing valve, to allow the unused fuel to flow by gravity back to the fuel tank. This fuel supply pump and overflow system has been used ever since on many large stationary engines. This engine had poppet valves and ignition was by a hot tube in the head.

These engines were built at Sterling, Illinois, and the company was known as The Charter Gas Engine Company. In 1891, James A. Charter interested H. W. Caldwell & Son of Chicago in his new engine. Operations for building a complete line of engines were moved to Chicago where the Caldwell-Charter engines were built in the following sizes, and sold at these established prices (see above).

This company built over 300 engines which were sold in the U. S. in two years. In competition with the 'New Otto Engine,' this record of sales had proven the Caldwell-Charter engines to be efficient and dependable at this period.