REPRINT HOW Your Hobby Started Part 5

By Staff

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

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

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

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



Actual HP

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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

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.

Gas Engine Magazine
Gas Engine Magazine
Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines