Adams-Farwell Rotary 5 Engine


Display Status:

This object is not on display at the National Air and Space Museum. It is either on loan or in storage.

Collection Item Summary:

The first successful rotary engine is generally attributed to F.O. Farwell in 1896, and was built by the Adams Company of Dubuque, Iowa. A three cylinder version likely powered the first rubber-tired automobile in 1899.

Because of its light weight, this five cylinder engine was selected by Emile Berliner, an inventor possibly better known in the acoustics field, to drive a helicopter's vertical shaft in a 1908 "test rig." It was reported by the New York Times on July 1, 1909 that a helicopter jointly designed by Berliner and J. Newton Williams, using two of these engines, successfully lifted a few feet off the ground in the last week of June 1909 with Williams aboard.

During this same period, Berliner formed the Gyro Motor Company to pursue development of the rotary engine in aviation, but the French Gnome engine was much more successful in bringing the rotary to a broad aviation market.

Collection Item Long Description:



Inventory Number


Physical Description

  • Type: Rotary, 5 cylinders, air-cooled
  • Power rating: 26.8 kW (36 hp) at 1,500 rpm
  • Displacement: 4.07 L (248.25 cu. in.)
  • Bore and Stroke: 114 mm (4.5 in.) x 89 mm (3.5 in.)
  • Weight: 44.1 kg (97.2 lb)

Credit Line

Gift of the Gyro Motor Company, Washington, DC

Manufactured for

Emile Berliner

Country of Origin

United States of America




  • 3-D: 48.3 × 68.6cm, 44.1kg (19 × 27 in., 97 1/4lb.)
  • Support: 43.2 × 44.5 × 36.8cm (17 in. × 17 1/2 in. × 14 1/2 in.)

Data Source

National Air and Space Museum

Restrictions & Rights

Do not reproduce without permission from the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum


PROPULSION-Reciprocating & Rotary