One of Otto’s first tractors was a 42 horsepower, single-cylinder giant built in 1896 and 1897. Otto’s 1897 tractor was long and low-down compared to its predecessor. Otto built a few tractors in the 1890s and this one was shipped to Hope, North Dakota. Eventually, stationary engines for tractor power would be replaced by smaller, and lighter designs fitted particularly for tractors. The days of using a stationary engine for tractor power were coming to an end, but Otto engines were very well built and possessed some features found on no other engine. Ottos used a unique system of rating their engines. Rather than using the nominal horsepower rating, each engine was tested and the test figure was stamped on the nameplate. By 1904. Otto was offering an attractive model much lighter than the earlier designs.
Nicolaus August Otto (1832-1891) is credited with building the world’s first production four-cycle internal combustion engine. Otto was born in Holzhausen, Germany. His fascination for the Lenoir engine waws immediate, growing into a lifelong obsession for internal combustion engines. Otto and Eugene Langen formed N. A. Otto & Cie. on March 31, 1864. This was the world’s first company to manufacture internal combustion engines as a major venture. Many styles and sizes were built in the following years. As the company grew, several distinguished men appeared. Gottlieb Daimler joined the firm in 1872 as production manager. Wilhelm Maybach, Daimler’s protege, headed up the design department. In 1876, Otto’s four-stroke cycle engine appeared, and it began the same four-cycle principles used today. Schleicher Brothers of Philadelphia were the first U.S. representatives of the Otto interests. Jakob and Adolph Schleicher were nephews of Eugene Langen. A year after they arrived in the United States (1876), Hermann Schumm, a relative of the Schleicher’s, joined the company. Schleicher, Schumm & Company continued to sell Otto engines for several years with a subsequent name change to Otto Gas Engine Works. A detailed history of Otto and Langen can be found in Lyle Cummins’ book, Internal Fire, published in 1976 by Carnot Press.
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