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History of Gasoline

Timeline of Gasoline and Fuel Improvements


  • 19th century fuels for the automobile were coal tar distillates and the lighter fractions from the distillation of crude oil.

  • On September 5, 1885, the first gasoline pump was manufactured by Sylvanus Bowser of Fort Wayne, Indiana and delivered to Jake Gumper, also of Fort Wayne. The gasoline pump tank had marble valves and wooden plungers and had a capacity of one barrel.

  • On September 6, 1892, the first gasoline-powered tractor, manufactured by John Froelich of Iowa, was shipped to Langford, South Dakota, where it was employed in threshing for approximately 2 months. It had a vertical single-cylinder gasoline engine mounted on wooden beams and drove a J. I. Case threshing machine. Froelich formed the Waterloo Gasoline Tractor Engine Company, which was later acquired by the John Deere Plow Company.

  • On June 11, 1895, the first U.S. patent for a gasoline-powered automobile was issued to Charles Duryea of Springfield, Massachusetts.

  • By the early 20th century, the oil companies were producing gasoline as a simple distillate from petroleum.

  • During the 1910s, laws prohibited the storage of gasoline on residential properties.

  • On January 7, 1913, William Meriam Burton received a patent for his cracking process to convert oil to gasoline.

  • On January 1, 1918, the first U.S. gasoline pipeline began transporting gasoline through a three inch pipe over 40 miles from Salt Creek to Casper, Wyoming.

  • Charles Kettering modified an internal combustion engine to run on kerosene. However, kerosene fueled engine knocked and would crack the cylinder head and pistons.

  • Thomas Midgley Jr. discovered that the cause of the knocking was from the kerosene droplets vaporizing on combustion. Anti-knock agents were researched by Midgley, culminating in tetra ethyl lead being added to fuel.

  • On February 2, 1923, for the first time in U.S. history ethyl gasoline was marketed. This took place in Dayton, Ohio.

  • In 1923, Almer McDuffie McAfee developed the petroleum industry's first commercially viable catalytic cracking process, a method that could double or even triple the gasoline yielded from crude oil by then-standard distillation methods.

  • By the mid-1920s, gasoline were 40 - 60 Octane.

  • By the 1930s, the petroleum industry stopped using kerosene.

  • Eugene Houdry invented the catalytic cracking of low-grade fuel into high test gasoline in 1937.

  • During the 1950s, the increase of the compression ratio and higher octane fuels occurred. Lead levels increased and new refining processes (hydrocracking) began.

  • In 1960, Charles Plank and Edward Rosinski patented (U.S. #3,140,249) the first zeolite catalyst commercially useful in the petroleum industry for catalytic cracking of petroleum into lighter products such as gasoline.

  • In the 1970s, unleaded fuels were introduced.

  • From 1970 until 1990 lead was phased out.

  • In 1990, the Clean Air Act created major changes on gasoline, rightfully intended to eliminate pollution.

Next > History of Gas Fueled Cars

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