A Study of Palmer Marine Engines Using Old Catalogs


| February/March 1990



Old ad

This old ad was taken from Gasoline Engines Volume 3, a collection of vintage advertising compiled by Alan C. King.

R.R. 2, Box 697, St. Michaels, Maryland 21663

I became interested in Palmer engines while restoring several for the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, Maryland. The museum has some old Palmer catalogs which I examined. Then Richard A. Day, Jr. loaned me his collection of original Palmer catalogs. He also furnished me a list of Palmer models written in the 1950's by David Stevens, a Palmer employee. It includes the years the models were built, based on limited company records and the memory of old-time company employees. Stevens' list is incomplete and some of the dates are in error.

Palmer History: In the April 10, 1924 issue of Motor Boating is a brief account of the beginnings of the Palmer Bros. Engines, Inc., written by E.E. Palmer, son of Ray Palmer. Ray and Frank Palmer built telephone equipment in Mianus, Connecticut beginning in 1887. Their company was The Mianus Electric Company. Around 1890, they began looking for a small internal combustion engine to power a pleasure boat on the Mianus River. In 1894 they still had not found a small engine, so they decided to build one. This engine had a bore and stroke of 3?x3? was two-cycle, with make and break ignition. Their greatest problem was the design of the make and break 'sparker,' as existing designs were of long 'on' time and slow release. In later years they claimed to have spent $5000 on development which was a lot of money in those times. However, with their experience in electricity, they solved the problem very well.

The Science Museum in London has cut-away engines on display that are to show the first two-port and three-port engines and they mention the inventors of each. According to the museum, Joseph Day of Bath, England obtained patent 6410 on the two-port system, dated April 14, 1891. I have obtained a copy of that patent, and it does show the familiar two-port system. Day built marine engines and the Science Museum has a 1913 model on display. He used hot-tube ignition on his early engines, though that is not part of the patent. Ignition timing was not well controlled and his engines had a tendency to reverse unexpectedly. The three-port invention, according to the museum, was by Frederic William Cock, also of Bath, and a Day employee. The patent is 18,513, October 15, 1892. That patent clearly shows the three-port system. (These patents are of the period when British patent numbers started with 1 each year.)

Day and Cock obtained U.S. patents in 1895. Day's two-port patent is 543,614, dated July 30, 1895, and the application date is May 21, 1892. Day's residence was Spring Gardens, Bath. He stated that he had patents in Britain, numbers 6,410 and 9,247 (the latter dated June 1, 1891). There is a version in the U.S. patent office that is from 9,247.

Cock's U.S. patent is 544,210, dated August 6, 1895 with an application date March 10, 1894. He stated his British patent is 18,513 of 1892. The patent was assigned to Joseph Day.

john bayes
7/11/2011 3:56:19 PM

My Father bought a 16ft boat in Cos Cob or Greenwhich Ct about 1936/1938 that had a 1 cly Palmer Marine Engine in it,a piston water pump on the left side as you faced the flywheel,an updraft carburater on the right side,exposed pushrods,overhead valves,a priming cup sticking out the front of the head,a lever on the right side near the carb for adjusting the spark timeing that used a model "T" type vibrating coil for spark and a brass handle that pulled forward out of the rim of the flywheel for cranking and slid back into the rim once the engine started.I remember the flywheel being so heavy that I as about 7 yrs old could just about lift it when it was off the crank.I believe it was about 5 hp.A 6 volt dry cell's' was used for the coil.My Father gave it to my older Brother when he came home from WW2.Many hours of fishing can be atributed to that boat.It was a "Dory" type hull with a small cabin that could seat about 4 people inside in rainy weather while one would stick his hand out the rear door to steer the boat.