1900 6 HP Oriental

Blame it on the name?

| December/January 2009

Manufacturer : Oriental Gas Engine Co., San Francisco, CA
Year: 1900
Horsepower: 6
Bore: 6-inch
Stroke: 8-inch
Flywheel diameter: 36 inches

What’s in a name? In the case of Oriental Gas Engine Co. of San Francisco, the name may have meant slow sales and a short existence.

Like many of the short-lived California companies making gas engines around the turn of the century, not much is known about the Oriental Gas Engine Co. other than it was one of many companies based in the Rincon Hill industrial district of San Francisco. According to C.H. Wendel in American Gasoline Engines Since 1872, Volume 2, the company built its first engines around 1895 with Marcellus Graham as proprietor and Edward Corliss.

“There are only six known Orientals,” says Anton Affentranger, Bakersfield, Calif., of his 1900 6 HP example. “In 1903, the company changed hands and the name changed to Corliss Gas Engine Co. There are 17 known examples under that name.” While no one knows for sure why the Oriental name simply didn’t sell, it’s possible a strong  anti-Asian sentiment in turn-of-the-century California may have played a role.

From a technical standpoint, the engine has a very unique feature that distinguishes it from other gas engines of the era. “The governor doesn’t have a spring; it has a weight which pushes a wedge in and out,” says Anton.

Anton’s vertical, tank-cooled Oriental has a 6-inch bore, 8-inch stroke and flywheels 36 inches in diameter.