The Kane-Pennington motorcycle is thought to be the first "motocycle" in the United States. The Kane-Pennington had a two cylinder engine mounted behind the rear wheel. The rear wheel was the crankshaft, and the connecting rods went to both sides of the wheel. Due to its direct drive and high gearing, the Kane Pennington could push the rider to 50mph. There where a few problems with this design . For one, it was geared too high, second there were no cooling fins on the engine and it overheated easily.
This machine was known in Britain as the Pennington
Pennington is known as a businessman rather than a pioneer. He reputedly took 100,000 pounds for his invention in Britain which turned out to be a complete failure.
Pennington was born in Franklin, Indiana in 1858 and as a boy showed remarkable engineering aptitude and as he developed into manhood he displayed remarkable initiative, charm and persuasiveness. With these attributes it was not long before he was running his own factory and at the age of twenty-three had patented a reciprocating head for planing machines, the first of a continuous stream of patents which flowed from his active brain until his death in 1911.
He was ruthless too and could exhibit
considerable showmanship in order to further his own ideas. A
characteristic of Pennington which in this context is significant
was the secrecy he achieved to protect his projects and
his habit of quietly dropping one idea in favor of another
with little regard to the financial outcome. By 1885 Pennington had acquired
sufficient capital to set up the Standard Machine
Works in Defiance, Ohio and two years later he
created two further firms to make pulleys
and wood-working machinery. A flood of Pennington
patents were registered at this time at Fort Wayne.
There are rumors of a company capitalized at one million dollars in Oswego, Kansas and another at Cincinnati with factories to produce 'Freight Elevators'. After a brief appearance at Edinburg, Illinois, where he collected some 50,000 dollars from the inhabitants for yet another 'pulley works' he came to rest at Mount Carmel, Illinois, in 1890. Now things begin to develop...this new Company was actually building a four cylinder radial engine..."for the propulsion of an aerial vessel". He also let it be known, that he was "readying a vessel to fly from Mount Carmel to New York".
In 1891 he exhibited a captive airship some thirty feet long and six feet in diameter. It flew in a circle propelled by an airscrew turned electrically. The current was conveyed by wires in the tethering cable.
In 1893 he turned his attention to motor driven vehicles and again a spate of patents flooded from the Pennington brain. Soon he was making motorcycles in Cleveland, Ohio and here he invented the first balloon tyre. Such giddy progress was bound to meet with reverses and due to his dogmatic attitude and ruthless decisions he began to make enemies: yet his uncanny instinct for avoiding trouble kept him from falling foul of the law.
During 1894 he joined Thomas Kane who made kerosene engines widely used in dairies for milk separation. This event is most important. Here, in Racine on the shores of lake Michigan they financed a really large concern for the development of petrol engines. They patented among other things an 'electric igniter' for petrol driven engines which was really the first sparking plug, in 1895. In this year Pennington visited England and took some of his vehicles with him. Exercising his well-known assurance and charm he persuaded Henry J. Lawson, a successful manufacturer of bicycles to purchase patents to the tune of a half a million dollars. He was still here in 1896 and entered the Brighton Run. After an altercation with M. Leon Bollee his claim to have won the event was not disputed. After this he participated in the aerial demonstrations in the U.S.A. late in 1896 and during 1897.
In December 1895 he had deposed with the American Patents Office the design for a full sized Airship. Basing the scale of the design on the size of the passenger seats the overall length of the ship would be about 140 ft. The keel beneath which provided accommodation for the crew and passengers,also housed large batteries and extended for 70 ft. with an equal amount of overhang of the envelope at each end. At the front end of the envelope a large airscrew about 50 ft. from tip to tip provided traction. At the rear an ample rudder and a horizontal fin allowed control of direction.
Wings or large ailerons above the envelope would also help to provide lift if suitably angled. In 1895 during his motorcycle phase Pennington was heard to remark: "Suppose I have a cycle, screw driven, making a mile a minute...just suppose that...then suppose that I put aeroplanes on that machine...and they are under good control, what then?" What then indeed, the Wright Brothers would have been forstalled by several years.
In the Motor Museum in Beaulieu, Hampshire there is a very rare vehicle. It is an 1896 Pennington motor-tricycle. It is worth looking at closely. The twin-cylinder, water cooled engine functions by fuel injection and the ignition system is remarkably ingenious, operating an early form of spark plug on each cylinder. The wheels have wire spokes and furnished with wide tires of modern cross section. It is a really remarkable piece of advanced engineering for its time and marks its designer, Pennington, as a brilliant engineer of foresight and genius.
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