Thursday, July 09, 2009

D.F. Spangler's wave motor

The drawing above shows portions of Santa Ana inventor D. F. Spangler's wave motor. It comes from the H. Clay Kellogg collection at the Orange County Archives. Wave motors were sort of a trend near the turn of the century, with many clever tinkerers believing they might be a way to tap into the unlimited energy potential of the ocean's waves and tides. None of these dreams panned out the way they were supposed to, but that didn't keep creative folk like Spangler from trying.
From the Los Angeles Times, Feb. 21, 1896:
D. F. Spangler of [Santa Ana] has invented a wave motor that promises to become a "bonanza" to the inventor. Mr. Spangler is just a hard-working blacksmith, but he has ideas that indeed seem to be a benefit to mankind. The motor has been shown to a representative of The Times. It consists of a long lever with a hollow float, and connected with two gear wheels to a large air pump, or air compressor, and the air piped to a large steam boiler, or any strong tank or reservoir, and used the same as steam. The machine is a novel one, and is attracting a great deal of attention now by those who have heard of the use to which it may be put. The machine may now be seen here in Santa Ana at the shop of its inventor."

That shop is seen below, at 3rd St. and Sycamore.
Soon the motor was ready to be tested at the end of the wharf in Newport Beach. On May 1st, the Times reported,
"Messrs. W.S. Bartlett, Benton and Lafayette Flood of Santa Ana and Miss Ross of Fairview will stand by the inventor in the experiment, and if it proves a success the motors will them be manufactured on a larger scale. It will cost perhaps $1000, or slightly more, to put in the machinery for this first trial, but if the test is successful an arrangement will not doubt be made so that the power of the motor will be used by the Newport Wharf and Lumber Company and the Santa Ana and Newport Railroad Company in the handling of large quantities of freight..."
The motor was started in mid-May, and ran well for several days before an "unusually low tide" broke part of the mechanism, requiring lengthy repairs. After that, little was heard about the motor.
For the record, Spangler also had another notable invention. In 1894 he built a boat that was propelled much like a bicycle. It was similar, in fact, to the garishly colored boats that now tool around the lake at Irvine Park. Rather than the sheer joy of paddling about, however, Spangler saw the boat as a way for hunters to approach their game on Newport Bay almost silently.

1 comment:

Chris Jepsen said...

Nice to see the Daily Pilot waited a full 16 days before slightly re-writing this story and putting their byline on it: