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Lucius Copeland with an early motorcycle, 1894

Lucius Copeland with an early motorcycle, 1894

Lucius Day Copeland was a pioneering 19th-century engineer and inventor from Phoenix, Arizona who demonstrated one of the first motorcycles, a steam-powered Star high-wheeler at the first Maricopa County Fair in 1884. Copeland also invented the first successfully mass-produced three-wheeled car. About 200 of his "Phaeton steamers" were produced before he retired in 1891.

Lucius Day Copeland Photo. Photo via Moto Loverz.
Lucius Day Copeland Photo. Photo via Moto Loverz.

In 1881 Copeland designed an efficient small steam boiler which could drive the large rear wheel of a penny-farthing, having a big wheel at the front and small wheel at the back, Star cycle at 12 miles per hour (19 km/h). The "Star" was able to cover a mile in four minutes and carry enough water to operate for an hour. Copeland set up the Northrop Manufacturing Co. in 1887 in Camden, New Jersey to produce the a three-wheeled version, the "Phaeton Moto-Cycle".

The steam-powered engine produced 4 horsepower at 2600 rpm with a 100 pounds (45 kg) boiler around the steering column with the water heated by kerosene. A simple leather belt drove the large rear wheel, yielding a top speed of around 15 miles per hour (24 km/h). Copeland had produced the first successful steam tricycle, with a range of 30 miles (48 km) and taking only 5 minutes to build up enough steam to average 10 miles per hour (16 km/h). Accompanied by another director of Northrop Manufacturing, Copeland successfully completed a return trip to Atlantic City of 120 miles (190 km) in one of his three-wheeled "Phaeton steamers". About 200 were produced before Copeland decided that he wasn't making enough money and retired in 1891.


Phaeton Steamers. Photo via Moto Loverz.

All information for this article were sourced from Moto Loverz.

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