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TWENTY-FIVE years into it are licensed under the Selden pat-
ago, a young man with ent—the patent, that in the late seventies
nan had spent years and tools about us, and before the
Selden is a gray-haired man of fifty-nine,
self-defiantly himself. The things he
Copyright 1906, by The Technical World Company
erty sought to make him abandon his when he was asked something not in invention.
the text books. This youthful revolt When Mr. Seldon was a boy of about against academic requirements had its fourteen, he chanced to hear a conver- logical result in his attitude as a father: sation between his father—who, though his two sons, now young men, have been a lawyer, was versed in mechanical almost wholly educated at home, where things—and a manufacturer of farm im- they were required to study only such plements, about self-propelled vehicles subjects as fitted their bents.
Mr. Selden left Yale in 1869 and began the study of law with his father. In 1871 he was admitted to the bar. Since 1876 his legal work has been entirely in the field of patent litigation. Despite the fact that his father discouraged his mechanical pursuits, desiring him to give himself wholly to the law, he continued his mechanical investigations in the leisure the law allowed him. Whenever he could get away from his office he would lock himself in his shop (he has always had a machine shop in his home) and ponder over mechanical problems or make experiments. His first investigations had in view the development of the steam automobile, which during the twenties and thirties of last century seemed to have such a brilliant future. In March, 1873, he abandoned steam as the power for a road locomotive and began the study of engines using other agents. He investigated engines to be operated by ammonia gas, by bisulphide of carbon and other liquid fuels. In 1874 or 1875 he built and operated an engine that was driven by a mixture of “laughing gas” and kerosene. The mixture was burned in a small chamber and the expanded products of combustion were fed to an engine similar to the or
dinary steam engine. But, owing to the Mr. Selden AND HIS Younger Son.
internal corrosion of the engine by the
mixture, this machine soon proved to be for public roads. They both agreed that a failure. such vehicles were impracticable. This Mr. Selden was greatly hampered by discussion was to Mr. Selden what the the fact that his law practice, not very respoon over the teakettle's spout was to munerative at this time, had to support James Watt-it started him thinking both his family and his experiments, upon the subject that was to be the main with the consequence that the latter had theme of his life. When he entered Yale to be conducted upon a stringently ecoin 1865 he attempted to do some reading nomical basis; and by the further fact upon the subject, but found few books that, at the beginning of his investigatreating of vehicles driven by their own tion, he had no information whatever power. Mr. Selden's career in Yale, about liquid-fuel, internal-combustion enfrom the academic standpoint, was not gines, and had to gain it almost entirely successful; he rebelled against his clas- from his own experiments. He was exsical studies; and (so at least he declares) ploring what to him was an unknown the only good recitations he made was territory. So he moved slowly, often taking the wrong direction, often halted gained the basic idea of his engine there by seemingly insurmountable difficulties. followed a year of thought and experiBut by 1876 he had reached the conclu- ment. He had many black days. In sion that road-locomotion would be October, 1877, he wrote in his diary, achieved only by an internal-combustion “Can't carry on about a dozen patent engine of the compression type using law suits and do much experimenting at liquid fuel, most likely one of the lighter the same time." And the next day he petroleum products. At last he was on wrote, “If ever I get a road wagon it the right road.
will be by accident. Of the almighty Thirty years ago Mr. Selden never effort which an invention requires, who dreamed of the automobile of the present knows but the inventor?" But he kept -of a touring car that would run thirty, indonitably on through these periods of forty or fifty miles an hour, of a racing depression, and by the latter part of 1877
machine that would run two miles a minute. His dream was of a light carriage that would run as fast the second or third hour as a good horse would the first, ten miles an hour. To fully understand the task he was attacking, it must be remembered that the Lenoir gas engirre of this period weighed about 5,000 pounds per horse power, the fly wheel being as heavy as an ordinary touring car, and that the Otto engine of a few years later weighed per horse power about 1,500 pounds. After Mr. Selden
he felt he had conquered, either by actual experiment or by theory, all his main problems. The time had come to build the engine.
All this while people had continued to sneer at Mr. Selden. His own brother advised him to go no further, told him he might as well throw his dollars into the river. The draughtsman who made the drawings of the engine under Mr. Selden's direction (Mr. Selden was not then a practical designer of machinery), laughed at the specifications as he drew
them and openly said Mr. Selden was ed—the fly wheel given a turn. There spending money like a fool. But Mr. was a sharp explosion, then increasingly Selden's faith in his idea carried him on; rapid explosions. The engine ran! the specifications, then the patterns, then The gasoline motor has developed the castings, were made. At this stage marvelously in the twenty-eight years he felt the lack of money, which had all that have elapsed—it now averages about along crippled him, with especial keen- ten pounds per horse power, and enness. His compressed air chambers were gines are in use that weigh less than sections of boiler pipes, his flywheel he six pounds per horse power; yet neverpicked up at second hand in a foundry, a theless the operation of this pioneer enfew parts not essential to the demonstra- gine will always be of interest. The tion of the running ability of the engine cylinder and air pump chamber (see were omitted, and only one of the three Fig. 1) are in one piece; as are also the cylinders was fitted up. At length, early cylinder piston and air pump piston, the in 1878, Mr. Selden's long dream stood latter being joined by bars. The forbefore him in steel and brass.
ward stroke compresses the air in the Would the engine run? Would his air pump chamber d, and forces it into friends and enemies still have occasion to the compressed air tank O. The backlaugh at him, or would it be his turn to ward stroke draws fresh air into the air laugh? The May day in 1878 when the pump chamber, and drives the exhausted first test was made will forever be to Mr. gases from the cylinder through the exSelden an unforgetable day. The trial haust valve V, operated by the cam-shaft took place in the corner of a foundry S. Air is admitted from the compressed boarded off into a small room. All was air tank into the explosion chamber T' by made ready—the ignition slame was light- the valve operated by the cam-shaft S;
This flame is maintained by a slight vice and a suitable carriage body adapted quantity of air that enters through a to the conveyance of persons or goods, small hole in the main inlet valve. The substantially as described.” Owing to reciprocating motion of the piston is the delays natural to the prosecution of communicated to the crankshaft by a an application, the patent was not granted yoke fitted into the piston. The engine till November 5, 1895. is kept cool by water in the crank cham- Eighteen seventy-eight and seventyhers, between the working cylinder and nine were hard years with Mr. Seldenthe air cylinder; the revolving of the as were many before and many after. He crank shaft splashes this water over all was financially unable to build the runthe heated parts. This three-cylinder ning gear and so complete his “gasoline engine (with all three cylinders operat- buggy.” But in constructing a light ening, no fly wheel was used) weighs about gine that would run he believed he had 300 pounds, and generates about five solved the problem of the automobile, and horse power.
he hopefully began to try to interest capiAlmost a year elapsed before Mr. Sel- tal in his invention. But he quickly den could spare the money necessary to found that the efforts required to evolve file an application for a patent. The his invention were nothing compared to chief claim of the application, which was the efforts required to get it on the marfiled May 8, 1879, is as follows: “The ket. He was dealing with a new power; combination with a road-locomotive, pro- the public, and even manufacturers, could vided with a suitable running gear in- not understand what went on inside the cluding a propelling wheel and steering engine, consequently had no confidence mechanism, of a liquid hydrocarbon gas- in it.