History of the Small Engine
James Watt, the Scottish inventor, developer of the concept of horsepower, and namesake of the watt unit of power, expanded on the Newcomen steam engine in the late 1700’s. These innovations minimized physical labor, increased the efficiency of locomotives and ships, and helped bring about the Industrial Revolution in Britain.
By the mid 1800's, the first crude internal combustion engines were developed in Western Europe. These small engines evolved to run on gasoline and kerosene. More efficient and much smaller, cities’ iron foundries and machinists worldwide were pumping out engines to sell to everyone from industrialists to farmers. Heavy single-cylinder engines ran on diesel, powering manufacturing facilities on the East Coast to cotton gins in The South.
In the early 1900’s, Briggs & Stratton developed the revolutionary stationary Type “P” engine. This was a game changer in the 4-cycle gasoline engine industry and set the course for Briggs & Stratton to become the world’s largest manufacturer of air-cooled gasoline engines. This convenient, portable engine reliably powered many applications of machinery including washing machines, garden tractors, cultivators, and generators. Affordable and readily available, the Type “P” engine empowered people to accomplish whatever they needed to in their daily lives.
By the mid-1900’s, companies like Briggs & Stratton were bringing greater innovation to engine design. In 1953, however, Briggs & Stratton revolutionized the lawn and garden industry by developing the first lightweight, air-cooled aluminum engine. This light aluminum engine improved the ease of use of lawn mowers, snow blowers, and generators, and was further advanced in 1958 with the introduction of Kool-Bore (all aluminum) and Sleeve-Bore engines.
The 1970’s brought a fuel shortage to the Unites States and Briggs & Stratton responded to the need to use less gas with the development of electric motors and one of the first gas/electric hybrid car prototypes.
Briggs continues to makeover the small engine by developing those that boast greater fuel efficiency than industry averages and greening manufacturing processes with engines comprised of 98% recycled aluminum. Read more about Briggs & Stratton’s green initiatives.
Want to learn more about the history of the lawn mower engine and Briggs & Stratton? Check out our Briggs & Stratton History PDF.