for now, here's a link to the article, which also follows:
Was John Tumilty's 'gasless car' for real?
'Gasless Car' Is Viewed In Local Tests
By DOUG POKORSKI
John Tumilty, R.R. 8, of Springfield, yesterday afternoon gave a demonstration of a substitute for gasoline for motor car use. Some time ago Tumilty announced his discovery of the new fuel and promised a demonstration, which was given yesterday before a group of local residents and newspapermen.
-THE ILLINOIS STATE JOURNAL, MAY 8, 1929
Ah, the spring of 1929.
The '20s still roared, fueled by bathtub gin and a rising stock market, and nearly every red-blooded American believed he was on the verge of hitting it rich.
That must have been the anticipation in the mind of Springfield's John Tumilty on a May day in 1929 when he gathered a group of local residents and newspapermen to demonstrate for them what he claimed was a wondrous invention - a chemical that would replace gasoline as a fuel for automobiles.
As the Illinois State Journal reported the story the next day, with no hint of tongue in cheek, the demonstration was nothing short of astonishing.
"The gasoline was drained from the tank of the (car) and a gallon of water from the pump at the house was poured into the tank. A small amount of the chemical was then put into the tank, thoroughly mixed with the water, the engine started and the machine was driven away. The car was driven from the Tumilty home to the Homestead mine on several trips and it was the opinion of onlookers that the gasoline left in the carburetor was gone and that the car was traveling with the usual power and speed on the mixture."
Tumilty, an English-born former coal miner who previously lived in Lincoln, told a Journal reporter he had been working on his formula for more than two years.
He said the demonstration that May day was the first public showing of his invention.
Tumilty and an associate named M.L. Heineke were in the process of organizing a corporation, to be based in Springfield, to manufacture and sell the miracle substance.
Whether the company was ever organized and whether Tumilty and his partner really did get rich from selling stock in it are not known. But a couple of relevant facts are known.
Fact one is that no one has ever been proven to have developed an effective process for turning water into gasoline.
Fact two is that over the years, and despite fact one, some unscrupulous men of an entrepreneurial bent have claimed to have just such a substance as a way of parting the gullible from their bank accounts.
Was John Tumilty just such a swindler? Or was he an unsung genius who really did develop a compound that would be in even more demand today than it would have been 70 years ago?
Perhaps we'll never know.
Each day of 1999, "A Springfield Century" will examine a story that appeared in The State Journal-Register or its predecessors, the Illinois State Journal and Illinois State Register, on the same date earlier in the 1900s.
© Copyright 1999, The State Journal-Register