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Long tricycle patent drawing

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Long tricycle patent drawing
Negative #: 43-981


This object appears in the following sections:

Smithsonian Automobile Collection — Car collection, pre-1900

Locomobile steam automobile

Long steam tricycle
In collection
From the Smithsonian Collection

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.

Physical Description

Long wanted to provide the front-wheel forks with improved steering heads that used small balls, such as those that appeared later on the steering heads of bicycles and motorcycles. At the time he constructed his tricycle, however, Long was unable to make such small balls, so he equipped the two steering heads with plain bushings.

The rear wheel, 5 feet in diameter, is the driving wheel. The two front wheels, 3 feet in diameter, are mounted in steering forks whose heads are connected by a curved tie rod. Spoon brakes operate against each of the solid tires on the front wheels.

The design of the steering and braking systems indicates that Long intended that the machine would be operated by two persons. A single driver would have difficulty in steering only one of the handlebars and in operating both brake levers.

Each seat is mounted on a full-elliptic spring, and its height is adjustable. The 2-cylinder, 90-degree, V-type engine has a stroke of 1 5/8 inches. It is attached to a steel plate that is mounted in the framework on small rollers so that it can be moved backwards and forwards by means of a lever pivoted in front of the seats. There are two pulleys on the crankshaft. The larger pulley is splined and can move lengthwise on the shaft. When the engine plate is brought backward, one of the driving pulleys is brought into contact with the tire of the rear wheel. As the pulleys have different diameters, two driving ratios are provided.

The boiler and one of the two water tanks also are mounted on the engine plate, an arrangement which requires that the tube between the fuel tank and the burner (beneath the boiler) and the one between the two water tanks be flexible.

The restored tricycle, weighing about 350 pounds, operates at a steam pressure of approximately 100 pounds per square inch.

Date Made:
about 1880
Connecticut, Massachusetts
Gift of John H. Bacon

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