Kane-Pennington
USA
1894

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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