Oliver Evans

Oliver Evans Oliver Evans

Oliver Evans was an American inventor, born in Newport, Delaware. His first invention was a machine for making card teeth for carding wool, a process that brushes wool so that it's ready to become textiles. One of his most notable inventions was the automated gristmill, which is used to grind grain into flour.

After moving to Philadelphia, Evans produced his next famous invention, an improved high-pressure steam engine. Though he was quick to patent the design, it wasn’t until years later that he put together a working model of the machine as a commission from the Philadelphia Board of Health. Called the Oruktor Amphibolos (or "Amphibious Digger"), this steam powered dredge was designed to clean up the muck that had collected along the city’s dockyards.

Ironically, the Oruktor Amphibolos was hardly a success. Evans claimed that it was the first self-powered land vehicle in the United States, as well as the first self-powered amphibious vehicle. However, no technical drawings or evidence have survived that support Evans’s claims to the invention outside of his own documents. Many of which are known to have contradictions and exaggerations on the dredge’s design process.

Funny enough, Evans did successfully predict that the United States would eventually become connected by a network of railroads. He also wrote up proposals for mechanical road vehicles but couldn’t get the financial backing from skeptical investors.

He may have had a passion for patenting his inventions, but one that he'd failed to patent was the design for the first refrigeration machine. His design operated using vapor, rather than previous versions that used liquid refrigerant for cooling. The design was later modified and patented by Jacob Perkins in 1834.

Oliver Evans died of a stroke upon hearing that his beloved workshop had burned to the ground at the age of 63.