The oldest completely operable self-propelled road vehicle in the Museum is a steam tricycle built about 1880 by George A. Long, of Northfield, Massachusetts. After a period of disuse following its construction, Long's original tricycle was disassembled and its parts scattered.
In 1946, however, the donor of the vehicle obtained the engine, along with its feed-water pump and driving pulleys, from the 96-year-old builder who then was living in Boston. At that time Long recalled that many years earlier he had seen other parts of the machine in Northfield.
A search by Mr. Bacon resulted in his obtaining most of the missing parts, and, subsequently led to the machine's restoration, which involved the use of some replacement parts. George Eli Whitney of Bridgeport, Connecticut, constructed the replacement fire-tube boiler and its appurtenances, and Russell Davis of Leominster, Massachusetts, performed other important work in the tricycle's restoration. Whitney is well known as a designer and builder of pioneer steam automobiles in the mid-1890s, and his work greatly influenced the Stanley brothers of later steam fame.
Long designed and built the tricycle's engine at Northfield in 1879, and a year or so later he constructed the framework and running gear in Albert A. Pope's Columbia bicycle plant, located in the factory of the Weed Sewing Machine Company at Hartford, Connecticut.
On 29 August 1882 Long applied for a patent on a "steam road-vehicle' consisting of a 2-seated, self-propelled tricycle powered by a 2-cylinder steam engine using gasoline as fuel. He was granted Patent 281,091 on 10 July 1883. Drawings on the patent papers reveal a tricycle that closely resembles the Museum's restored vehicle. Interestingly, gasoline was specified as the fuel.
The vehicle's replaced parts include the boiler, burner, engine mounting plate, fuel and water tanks, all gauges and piping, the hand-operated air pump, and the water pump, which is from an early steam automobile.