Stringfellow Steam Engine


Display Status:

This object is on display in the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA.

Stringfellow Steam Engine

Collection Item Summary:

Like the Wright brothers, who followed, John Stringfellow and his associate William Henson are an important link to early aeronautical researchers. At an exposition in 1868 in London's Crystal Palace, where it powered a triplane model along a cable, the Aeronautical Society of Great Britain awarded a prize of £100 to Stringfellow’s engine as the lightest in proportion to its power, producing 0.75 kW (one horsepower) for the weight of 5.9 kg (13 pounds).

In 1889, Smithsonian Secretary Samuel P. Langley purchased the engine, along with a "car" designed to carry an engine and a pair of propellers, for £25. Langley held on to the engine briefly, sending it to L.D. Copeland of Smithville, N.J., for experimental work. Upon return of the engine to Langley, he turned it over to the museum section of the Smithsonian for public display, also in 1889.

Collection Item Long Description:



Inventory Number


Physical Description

  • Type: Reciprocating, steam, single cylinder, alcohol fuel
  • Power rating: 0.813 kW (1.1 hp) at 445 N (100 lb) boiler pressure, 300 rpm
  • Displacement: 0.15 L (9.42 cu in.)
  • Bore and Stroke: 5.1 cm (2 in.) x 7.6 cm (3 in.)
  • Weight: 5.9 kg (13 lb)

Credit Line

Purchased from Frederick J. Stringfellow


Country of Origin

United Kingdom


  • Metal
  • Copper alloy
  • Steel
  • Cotton
  • Wood
  • Paint
  • Clear coating


3-D: 60.5 × 12.8 × 60.2cm (23 13/16 × 5 1/16 × 23 11/16 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