Little Liz Gasoline Engine

By Staff
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Richard Thompson's Little Liz at Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.
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No. 1 experimental engine, black and gold Little Liz. You can see on side where changes were made in 1990. This one was made between 1923 and 1930 and is owned by George Riyman.
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Serial Number is embossed on the front top of the water hopper of the Little Liz engine.

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?

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