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November 2015

The Ellwood City Mystery

By Paul Harvey

A while ago, a friend asked me if I knew anything about the Ellwood City gas engine.  I replied that I was aware of it from something I had read years ago, but otherwise I knew nothing.  I had never seen one, nor heard of one. Hmm!  This spark sowed a seed, so I proceeded to seek some information.  This is the story of a gifted inventor who, like so many others of his time, seemed to proceed to the next venture before completing his present one.

Today Ellwood City is a pleasant town of 7,500 persons, located in Beaver and Lawrence Counties of Pennsylvania.  Its origin was the idea of industrialist Henry W. Hartman, who formed the Pittsburgh Company in 1889.  He created a "company town" for his new and thriving industry, and the venture certainly prospered.  Ellwood City soon became the "birthplace of the seamless tube industry."   The new town grew rapidly with schools, stores, banks, and churches, and especially the massive mills.  Photo 1,  from Everett E. Bleakney, Jr's book, shows a very industrial Ellwood City.  Note the huge mills in the background, and the streets of similar houses.  Fifth Street, downtown, is viewed in Photo 2.  Opportunity for invention was here.

The only image of an Ellwood City engine was found in Charles Wendel's,  American Gasoline Engines Since 1872.  Displayed in Photo 3, it appears to be a very practical machine.  However, a search of the patents did not reward me with anything similar.  Charles R. Daellenbach had many patents, and two were assigned to the Ellwood City Gas Engine Company.  These were # 632,917,  seen as Photo 4, and # 632,918,  seen  as Photo 5.  Both patents were awarded on September 12, 1899.  They seemed impractical and not similar to the produced engine.  The first of the two was a double-acting engine, and the second was a very odd two-cycle utilizing a stepped piston.

Charles Rudolph  Daellenbach was born in Switzerland on November 20, 1868, and immigrated to the United States in 1885.  He married Dora Price on December 29, 1892, and settled in Ellwood City.  A bit confusing, he is referred to as both Charles and Carl, the latter mostly in later years.  Wikipedia notes that Carl is an American variant of the German Charles.  For this article he will be referred to as Carl.  He had a total of 17 patents, starting in 1895 and concluding in 1928.

Carl established the Ellwood City Gas Engine Company in 1899.  The New Castle News of March 6, 1901 describes a fire that completely consumed the new firm.  All engine production ceased at that time.  The New Castle News, June 4, 1902, notes that Carl went to Braddock, Pennsylvania, to form the new Daellenbach Gas Engine Company. There he partnered with G.E. Turner.  This firm was short-lived and soon replaced by the Daellenbach-Turner Gas Engine Company. Turner was well known in the gas engine world;  partner in the firm of Turner-Fricke,  involved with Turner-Palm,  and now with Daellenbach.  Soon, the New Castle News of August 13, 1902 concludes, the Daellenbach-Turner Company will locate in Ellwood City to manufacture gas engines.  Note Photo 6, patent # 783,105, for this design.  Interestingly, this patent was authored jointly by Carl and Arthur G. Daellenbach and finally awarded on Feb 21, 1905.  There is no evidence that the firm ever produced an engine.  The New Castle Weekly Herald, May 3, 1905, notes that the Ellwood City Gas Engine Company was sold to the Pitt Mfg. Co. for $2,500.00.  No further gas engine manufacturing was done there.

A Braddock city directory of 1906 lists Carl living there and employed in a steel fabricating shop.  Continuing to invent, he was granted four more patents while there.  Seemingly his Braddock venture was unsuccessful and he returned to Ellwood City about 1911.  He dissolved his relationship with the Braddock Gas Engine Company; nothing more is known of this concern. When back in Ellwood City, he was granted patent # 1,053,136, February 11, 1913, for a carburetor for automobiles.  See Photo 7.  He set up a garage to make these carburetors and repair automobiles.  He spent the rest of his life in this occupation. The New Castle Herald of April 19,1917 lists the Daellenbach Garage Company selling automobiles, motorcycles, and supplies,  It was located on Beaver and Ninth Street in Ellwood CityPhoto 8 shows Carl and his daughter, Lamia, in the back seat of an automobile behind his garage.  Lamia is shown on an Indian Motocycle that her dad sold in Photo 9.  Note that the spelling, "motocycle" is correct for the Indian marque of that time.

As did so many other gas engine makers of the turn of the twentieth century, Carl finally found success with the new automobile.  The gas engine market was very demanding; needing a good design and a designated market.  Very few makers were able to find this.  However, the new automobile was here to stay and garages were needed, both for dealerships and repair.  It seems that Carl was now satisfied.  The New Castle News of November 6, 1930 notes that Carl passed away in his home.  He was buried in the North Sewickley Cemetery.

The author would welcome any corrections or additions to this story.  Coolspring Power Museum will feature "One-of-a-Kind" engines for 2016, and it would be great if an Ellwood City engine could be displayed.

Ellwood City Industrial

Photo 1: Industrial Ellwood City

Fifth Street in Ellwood City

Photo 2: Fifth Street in Ellwood City

Ellwood City Gas Engine

Photo 3: Ellwood City Engine

Ellwood City Engine Patent 632,917

Photo 4: Patent 632,917

Ellwood City Engine Patent 632,918

Photo 5: Patent 632,918

Daellenbach Gas Engine Company 1905

Photo 6: Patent 783,105

Daellenbach Carburetor 1913

Photo 7: Patent 1,053,136

Carl and Lamia at Garage

Photo 8: Carl and his daughter Lamia

Lamia on Indian Motocycle

Photo 9: Lamia and an Indian Motocycle


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