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Lycoming Motors – The Beginning

In my prior article on Lycoming Motors, I gave a history of their contributions to the automobile industry. This article delves back to very beginnings of Lycoming Motors in 1845. Yes, this manufacturing entity, though evolving over many years has its origins before the Civil War. In 1845 a Miss Demorest founded what was to

In my prior article on Lycoming Motors, I gave a history of their contributions to the automobile industry. This article delves back to very beginnings of Lycoming Motors in 1845. Yes, this manufacturing entity, though evolving over many years has its origins before the Civil War.

In 1845 a Miss Demorest founded what was to become known as the Demorest Fashion and Sewing Machine Company. Making sewing machines at a rate of 60 per day with a selling price ranging from $19.50 to as high as $55.00. In 1889, the Demorest Company moved into the first factory structure on a 60 acre plot of land located on Oliver and High Streets, which is now the current location of Textron.

S. H. Ellis, an employee of Demorest, designed a bicycle that was built and sold under the name of the New York Bicycle by Demorest Cycling Company. The bicycle company was located in the Weightman Block in Williamsport. The New York Bicycle sold for $85-$150. The Demorest factory was now manufacturing sewing machines, bicycles and opera chairs.

In 1908, the Lycoming Foundry and Machine Company acquired the Demorest Manufacturing Company facility and during World War I, Lycoming joined the war effort and in 1917 built more than 15,000 four-cylinder gasoline engines for the military. They also produced vast amounts of fragmentation bombs and gas shells for the army during World War I.

Starting in 1928, Val Cronstedt directed a team of engineers at the now named Lycoming Motors to design and build a low-cost radial aircraft engine they nicknamed the Iron Duke. This aircraft engine turned out to be not very reliable. This work was being done at the same time as Lycoming was forging into the automobile engine business as well, as I talked about in my prior article. After the Iron Duke engine, Lycoming came out with a 9 cylinder radial aircraft engine, the R680 and was 680 cubic inches and developed 215 horse power. They produced 25,000 of the R680 engines.

On April 3, 1929 the first aircraft to be powered by Lycoming Engines made several trial flights at the Montoursville Airport. The Orange and Black Travel Air Bi-plane with the Lycoming engine was christened by Ida Hays. The pilot for the test flights was John Kelley of Auburn, Indiana.

Lycoming, in 1933, entered into the aircraft propeller business. They designed and built the world’s first mechanical controllable pitch blade propeller. This propeller was called the Lycoming–Smith prop. With this development, a companion business was formed, the American Propeller Company. Next, in 1938, Lycoming developed a four-cylinder horizontally opposed 55 horsepower aircraft engine and the following years they designed and built a series of four, six and eight cylinder aircraft engines. These engines were used by aircraft companies such as Piper, Taylorcraft, Beach and Ryan.

Igor Sikorsky, father of the helicopter, built and flew the world’s first helicopter and it was powered by a Lycoming aircraft engine. It was a four-cylinder 75 horsepower Q145 engine. By 1960, then known as Avco, 75 different models of aircraft and helicopters were powered by Lycoming aircraft engines. One of the main manufacturing businesses in Williamsport, Avco provided good paying jobs for many in the Lycoming valley at that time.

John Shireman
John Shireman
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