Louis Enricht

From Academic Kids

Louis Enricht (????-1923) was a US inventor who claimed that he had invented a substitute for gasoline.

In 1916, during World War I, Enricht announced that he had invented cheap substance that, added to ordinary tap water, would be substitute for gasoline.

In a press conference in Farmingdale, Long Island, he first asked the reporters to check that there was no supplementary tank in the car he had brought. Then he asked one of the reporters to fetch him a bucket of water. He poured greenish liquid into water and filled a gas tank of the car with it. When the car started, it also emitted a strong smell of almonds. Enricht invited the witnesses to use it in their own vehicles.

Enricht found a number of wealthy and willing investors. Reputedly even Henry Ford offered to buy rights for his additive. Enricht admitted that the smell of almonds came from cyanide but before his lawyer could patent the formula, he would keep silent about it. He received millions of dollars - including $100.000 from Hiram Maxim who said he would pay the rest when Enricht would reveal his formula.

Maxim reputedly later dropped the offer but a banker named Yoakum offered Enricht the same amount. Yoakum received a sealed envelope that supposedly contained the formula. When he heard a - probably unfounded - rumor that Enricht was suspected of being a German spy, he opened the envelope - breaking his part of the agreement - and found only a couple of liberty bonds. He failed to get Enricht tried for treason.

In 1920, Enricht announced that he had a way to distil gasoline from peat. Again he received number of would-be-investors. However, district attorney of the Nassau County had decided to investigate. He examined Enricht's bank account and found out that he had spent the money for gambling, instead of benefiting other investors. Enricht was tried for grand larceny and sentenced for seven years.

Enricht was paroled couple of years later for health reasons and died a year later at the age of 79.

Actually, Enricht had probably used a mixture containing mainly acetone and liquid acetylene, that could run a car engine for a while - but would also eventually ruin the engine. The cyanide, that caused the smell of almonds, hid the smell of acetone - similar to that of nail varnish. The mixture would have been much more expensive to manufacture than gasoline.

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