Charlie fixed bicycles in a medium-sized Ohio town. His background was in mechanics, and bikes were practically the most mechanical item any average person could own in the late 1800s. The family who owned the bicycle repair shop treated him well, and Charlie liked the job. And since this was the late 1800s, bicycles were becoming all the rage in the United States. The Huffy bicycle inventor came from the same town Charlie was in. In many ways, Charlie was in on the ground floor of a revolution in personal transportation. Don’t think of the big wheel penny-farthing bicycle. The bikes that Charlie worked on were a lot like the ones we have today. Because of the popularity of this new creation, Charlie found that he had job security.
His ability to not only repair bicycles but also to deal with the business side of the operation made the owners trust him. Because they traveled a lot, the family pretty much turned the entire operation of the business over to Charlie as they went about pursuing other interests. Under his guidance, the shop prospered, and the family was happy with his work.
It’s interesting to note that as the first prototypes of automobiles came along during this period in history, many of the parts that were used on these early vehicles were taken from spare bicycle parts. In fact, an inventor named John Lambert is supposed to have built the first automobile in Ohio in 1890 from bike parts. While Charlie wasn’t interested in working on automobiles and tinkering in that field, the family who owned the bicycle shop was definitely interested in transportation for obvious reasons. They asked Charlie if he felt competent enough to work on a light weight gasoline powered engine. After some tinkering, Charlie created a 12 hp lightweight engine, the first engine in the United States to be made almost entirely out of aluminum.
There must be something in the water of the state of Ohio. Thomas Edison was from there. John Glenn and Neil Armstrong also hailed from there. And we probably should add Charlie Taylor’s name to that illustrious list as well. You see, the family who owned the bicycle shop was headed up by a couple of brothers. They had been largely home-educated. Neither one of them finished an official high school diploma. It was their father, a prominent minister in the area, who educated them at home. He insisted that all of his children speak well and write well. But we’re getting away from the subject of Charlie.
The little 12 hp engine that Charlie fabricated needed to be lightweight for a reason. Regular iron cast engines proved too heavy for the application they needed. They wanted to put Charlie‘s lightweight engine on the frame of a air glider. And now you know that the brothers who owned the bicycle shop were named Orville and Wilbur, and you also now know that the Wright Brothers’ heavier-than-air-craft that flew at Kitty Hawk would have never gotten off the ground without the ingenuity of Charlie Taylor.