Built in 1892
John Froehlich and the Froehlich Tractor
In 1892, John Froehlich & Wilbur Mann mounted a single cylinder
Van Duzen engine on a Robinson steam tractor running gear. This
traction engine was the first gasoline machine of its type that actually
was an operating success.
In the spring of 1892 Froehlich bought one of the Van Duzen engines,
a single cylinder, running on gasoline, having a 14 inch bore and
14 inch stroke.
The engine had a displacement of 2,155 cubic inches and delivered 16
horsepower. The assembly of the machine was done in a small blacksmith
shop located in Froehlich Iowa.
Taking the Froehlich tractor along with a new J. I. Case 40 x 58 thresher
to the Dakotas, the 2 men completed a 52 day threshing run, in
temperatures as low as 2 degrees below zero and as high as 100
degrees. The engine both pulled and powered the thresher, successfully
threshing some 72,000 bushels of small grains.
Proving itself to be far superior to the traditional steam powered tractors,
the Froehlich traction engine attracted enough attention to warrant a
try at manufacturing them on a small scale.
The Waterloo Gasoline Traction Engine Company
Later that year a group of Iowa businessmen approached
John Froehlich about forming a company to produce the tractor.
On January 10th, 1893, the Waterloo Gasoline Traction Engine
Company was formed.
Four units were built that year, two of which were not satisfactory
for sales, the other two units were sold only to be returned as
unsatisfactory to the owners.
Several new models were developed with work beginning in late
1893. By early 1894 a 1 1/2 and 4 and 1/2 horsepower engine was
developed but only one of these was ever sold.
The company did have some success in selling stationary units, so in
November of 1895 it was reorganized into the Waterloo Gasoline
John Froehlich, the Man
John Froehlich was mainly interested in tractors, so shortly after the
reorganization, withdrew. Froehlich then tried two times to organize
a company to build stationary gasoline engines, both were unsuccessful.
After that he was employed by several different companies but never
did form a successful tractor gasoline engine company again.
John Froehlich is credited with having 14 US Patents, as inventor or
co inventor. Among these were patents for: a speed regulating device
for a vertical engine, a track type crawler traction vehicle, a vehicle
that could be converted from a truck to a wheel tractor and back
again, a circular water cooled radiator, a vehicle steering gear,
a reversing clutch and gear device for lifting gang plows,
an automatic cereal measuring device for a threshing machine,
a commercial dish washer with a built in dryer.
In 1991 John Froehlich was inducted into the Iowa Inventor's Hall
of Fame. Froehlich was born November 24, 1849 near Froehlich
Iowa and died in St. Paul Minnesota on May 24, 1933.
Next: Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company
History of John Deere