History of Early American Automobile Industry
If you have previously visited this site, you will notice the changes that have been made. This was necessary to include a great amount of information that has been added since this site was first introduced in 2010. This is due to the adancement of the internet and more material is made available by early automobile journals being digitized. New visitors can start from the beginning and previous visitors can get new information for their research without searching the entire history.
The automobiles shown here were produced prior to 1900 and never went much further than little or no production, but each and every vechile had its place in the history of the automobile. The other automobiles that were previously on this page had a successful production and are featued in other pages.
1863 Simmonds Steamer
Clarence Simmonds was an employee at the Lynn Gas and Electric Company in Lynn during the year,1863, he built his steam car. It had a 2 cylinder vertical engine, using naptha as fuel for the burner and featured a porpupine type boiler. It took only 5 minutes to get the proper amount of steam to reach top speed of 10 mph. He received permission to drive his car certain hours to and from work. A group of promotors bought his car for promotional purposes. It is said that he was very friendly with the Stanley brothers. He never built another car.
1867 Curtis Steamer
Francis Curtis was the superintendent of the Gas Works in Newburyport and in 1866, he invented a steam engine which was attached to a piece of fire fighting equipment. The Newburyport Daily Herald described it as self reliant and independent as though it were a living thing. Nehemiah Bean, designer of the Amoskeag fire engine sat next to Curtis on its initial run and it may be that his engine was used in the Famous Amoskeag Fire Wagon. He built a steam passenger carrriage the following year built to the specifications of an unnamed client. The boiler was made by the Whittier Machine Works and was placed in front of the seat with a coal box at the rear. The water tank was 20 gallons and and coal capacity was 80 pounds. The steam pressure reached 40 to 45 pounds. It had a five horse power engine that could reach 25 mph. With a full load of coal, the car could go 30 miles, providing a half dozen stops for water. The longest run between water stops was 9 miles in 26 minutes. The price agreed to was $1000 to be paid in installments. When the owner failed to pay, Francis Curtis took back his steamer. This had to be the first repossion in American history. There was another first. During the testing period before delivering to his client, the Curtis aroused the wrath of his neighbors, one of whom swore out a warrant for his arrest. When the officer arrived, Curtis left in his car with the officer in hot pursuit on foot, The first getaway by car in American history. Curtis had difficulty convincing the Newburyport City Council the wisdom of steam power and he was never able to build another steam power automobile in town.
This was the first automobile sold in America, the first one to be reposessed, and the first get-away by automoble
1880 Long's Steam Tricycle
George Long built the parts for his vehicle at his home at Northfield, MA in 1880. He went to Albeert Pope's Columbia Bicycle Company, Hartford, CT in 1882 to have his parts put together. The result was a two-sear, two-cylinder engine that used gasoline for fuel. The lever steering was by the front wheels and a pulley connected to the rear wheel did the driving. Two handle bars and two brake levers required two drivers.The brakes were by the front wheels. He builtno other ones.
1884 Callihan Steam Vehicle
E. S. Callihan settled twent miles east of Woonsockwet, South Dakota Territor in 1881. In 1884, he built his steam automobuile wit all arts being made by an E. Scott. The tree wheel vehicle had two cylinder engine that used hay for fuel wth a 24-inch boiler that produced 175 lbs of pressure. It had a top speed of 15 mph and used ten gallons of water and five gallons of kerosene to Woonsocket and back. This was the first automobile in the territory. He continued to build other vehicles until 1905.
1892 Philion Steam Car
Achille Philion, Akron, OH, was a circus entertainer who could walk a large rubber ball up a spiral tower and ride it down on the other side. He began to make his steamer in 1887, finished it in 1892, when it appeared on the streets. He rode it in all the parades until he retired in 1897. The car appeared in several movies and is now on display at Harrah's Museum, Reno, NV.
1898 Best Wagon Automobile
Daniel Best, owner of the Best Manufacturing Company, San Leandro, CA, builder of tranction engines, built an experimental automobile in 1898. His son, Daniel was in charge.It was an eight passenger, two-cylinder, 7 hp gasoline engine, with huge wagon wheels that could reach a speed of 20 mph.It was tiller ateered, which was on the left side. Manufacturing was contemplated, but it was not put into production. An additiona runabout was made for personal use.
However, ihe built a huge tractor to pull wagons for the owners of a mining company in Western Australia, four hundred miles from the coast to the mines across land with no water available. It was intended to haul supplies, men, household goods, and anything needed for a large mining settlement Railroad was out of the question and the only means was for a motorized vehicle.
It was equipped with a 75 horse power, four-cylinder motor with crude petroleum for fuel. The rear wheels were 8 feet by 14 inches. Because there was no water available for enginr coolant, a water jacket had to be made to hold enough water for the distance. The water jacket, radiator, was built on top of the tractor consisting of 1,100 feet of water pipes where the water passed through over and over again for coolant with a small loss due to radiation.
The factory was sold to the Holt Manufacturing Company, builders of the Holt tractors, in 1908. Leo Best remained as manager with the company. In 1916, he bought the factory and began making tractors under the Holt name.The Holt company merged with the Caterpillar Tractor Company in 1925, Caterpillar moved its manufacturing into the Holt factory. In 1930, the business was moved to Peoria, Il, with Leo Best as chairman of the board.
1899 Gasoline Carriage of Sebastian Blimeline, Sinking prings, PA
Sebastian Blimeline, cariage maker in Sinking Springs, PA, built a two-pasenger runabout, driven by a 1 1/2 horse power gasoline engine in 1898. It had two speeds that ran 3-10 mph. He build another car that had a 4-horse power engine. Plans were made to build others, but they did not evolve.
1896 Cruickshank Delivery
Cruickhank Steam Engine Works, Povidence, RI, built s delivery van for Shephard & CO that was desined by L. N. Baldwin, the superendent of the steam company. This vehicle was the first delivery wagon made in this country. Balswin went on to form his own company, Baldwin Automobile Company and made his Baldwin steamer.
1895 Mueller Dos-Dos Automobile
In 1895, Hieronymus Mueller, owner of the Mueller Mfg. Company, Decauter, IL, imported a Benz automobile and after a few modifications, entered it into the Chicago Times-Herald Race. In 1896, he and his six sons, made anothe one they made a complete car, with the back seat facing forward, with a two-cylinder motor, and gave it a road test. Even though they hinted that they may go into production. they never did. The car business was sold.
Erie and Sturgis
1896 Erie & Sturges Automobile
1897 Erie and Sturgis
Because of health problems, James Erie moved from New York to Los Angeles in 1895. he S. D. Sturgis & Brother Machine Company was next door and Erie found employment there. In 1897. the company built a car of Erie's design, and to say the least, it was extremely large four-cylinder model with the body above an enclosed compartment that housed the running gears.Two cylinders were in bach and two in front with a wood, fiber, and steel gear arrangement. The enclosed box was fire proofed with asbestos, with perfect ventilation, and emitted a small amount of fumes.On its test run, only one cylinder was used and there was a "small problem". The asbestos burned into a crisp burned and the faulty steel melted. Even with this problem, its test run was far beyond expectations, and development cost of $30, 000 was arranged.However, no other cars were made. Erie returned to New York and continued with his engineering profession and the Sturgis Brothers began making engines along with two other vehicles.. .
1896 H.W. Struss Stanhope Automobile
Henry Struss, New York City, built a four cylinder, four horse-power engine that he mounted on the rear axle of a carriage that was buile for him by Burr& Company. The Struss engine had mechanically operated valves and all bearing were roller type that was advanced for the industry. He indicated in 1898 that he was going into production, but he never did. He did have patents on his vehicle..
1899 Quick Runabout
H. M. Quick's, Patterson, NJ, automobile was a two-cylinder, water-cooled, 4 horse powered model that he developed. It was a two-seat runabut with the typical tiller steering with single chain drive. The Quick Manfacturing Company had a hard time building his one model. However, to men, E. M. Rodrick and F. A. Phelps, joined him to establish his business. The Quick company also built the Quick engines that were designed by Phelps. Never having enough capital and after several moves, the company closed down in 1900.
1896 Kulage Automobile
Unbelievable as it may seem, this is one man's opinion of a perfect vechile for the American roads. This man was Joseph J. Kulage, 1435 College Avenue, St Louis, Mo. He sent a cut of his vehiclw with all its finer points to the Horseless Age Magazine in 1896. Copied below is the articl
the inventor of a motor vehicle, shown in the accompanying cut, which makes a radical departure from those heretofore described in our columns. Mr. Kulage promises full and detailed information for the next issue, contenting himself for the present with the mention of a few points in which he believes his vehicle is superior. These he enumerates as follows :
First: Safety.No matter at what high speed the vehicle may strike an obstruction on the road, or how uneven or slanting the road may be, it cannot be upset or thrown upon its side. Furthermore, supposing the vehicle to be running along at high speed, and only a few feet ahead, a rut or any other danger should suddenly appear, this vehicle can avoid the danger, for no matter how high the speed, it can be turned around instantly and on so small a radius as the distance between its own wheels.
Second: Ease of Control and Manageability.This vehicle on the road can be stopped, started and turned exclusively by foot power, without the use of even a hand. No guiding, steering or brake levers are required for the hands, which are entirely free.
Third: Convenience and Simplicity in Form of Construction and Economy of Operation.The bottom of the vehicle being below the axles and only about a foot from or as near to the ground as desired, and no obstructions being found in front or rear, the seats (front or rear) can be taken with
He intended to form a company and advertised as such. but when he could find no backers willing to lose a fortune, he gave up in 1897.
Clark Sintz, owner of the Gas and Engine Company, Grand Rapids, MI, started making his automobile in 1895, but it wasn't finished until 1897. It was six-horse-power, two cylinder motor with a Reeves variable speed mechanism. On good roads it could do 6 mph and could climb any hilll. that it encountered and no sand nor mud was found too deep to go through . While completing his model, he began making gasoline engines at his Wolverine Motor Works. His engines were some of the best in the field. In 1902, he decided to start building automobiles once again. In order to do this, he sold his engine business and set up two companies for his sons, Claude and Guy. Claude Sintz, Inc for automobile manufacturing and Sintz Gas Engine Company for enging making. Six automobiles were built before the the companies were closed down. .
Ernest and Ofeldt
1899 Ernest & Ofeldt Steam Carriage
1895 J.B. West Gasoline
The steam vehicle that John B. West, Rochester, NY, in 1895, had many features that other companies did not have for some time. It had disc wheels with balloon tires in the rear with a bicycle parts for the front. His model was widely publisized in the press, but he failed to find any backers to produce it. He built one more and called it quits.
1896 Dey-Griswold Electric Phaeton
Harry E. Dey of Dey-Griswold, New York, NY, built their electric car in 1896. It had a combination electric-fluid drive that forced oil through turbines on the rear wheels.The result was too much slippage. However a few were made by the Pawtucket Motor Carriage company in Rhode Island. The company ceased operations by 1898.
1895 John W. Hall's Motor Trap, Jacksonville, IL.
John W. Hall, Jacksonville, Il, built a very beautiful 1890's automobile in his John W. Hall & Sons factory. It weighed 700 lbs and carried four. It had one serious problem: it was powered by the infamous Kane-Pennington motor that was no good and he had to have his engine replaced by the Walls engine made by the Decatur Gasoline Engine Company. No other car was built.
1895 Victoria Motorette
The Racine Victoria Motorette was made by the Kane-Pennington Company to promor the Kane-Pennington engines. It did show up at he 1895 Tribune-Hearld race. Pennington was one of the largest automobile industry's scammers and his full history is linked to the home page
1895 Electric Wagon,
Three men , Clyde Coleman, Fred Dangenhardt, and E. E. Keller, joined together to form the Columbia Perambulator Co., Chicago, IL, in order to get a franchise from the Chicago Worlds Fair organizers to build cars the visitors to the fair. Three models were built with the two of them being three wheels and the fourth being a four wheeler dos-a-dos model. They were exibihited at the Electric Building. No sales were made and manufacture did nor follow
1896 Richard Bird's Motor Trap
Even though Richard Bird, Buffalo, NY, planned to have his first car in the 1895 Chicago Herald-Tribune Race, and it was there, but for some reason it wasn't. When he returned to New York, he started building his second one, which was a dos-ados wagonette that he claimed it would go 30 mph, which was ipossible. He made a smaller one that was to go faster and he planned to go into business and to form a corporation that never happened.
1895 Roger Petroleum Wagon
Emil Rogers was a Fenchman that had acquired the rights to build Benz automobiles and in 1895, he came to this country with three Benz models. He quickly sold them to three New York department stores. He set up his Roger American Mechanical Carriage company to manufacture his Benz rights in several models. W. P. Williams was an engineer who he hired to revise the Benz for American roads. Prototypes were finished, but before production was started, he died, and the business never proceeded any further.
1895 Joseph Shaver's Steam Buggy
Joseph Shaver a marble dealer in Milawaukee, WI, built a handsome steam wagon with wheel steering. He had planned his car to enter the Chicago TImes-Tribune Race in Chicago, but it was not ready on time.The gasoline engine was in front with the boiler in the rear, and its top speed was claimed to be 30-40 mph frontward and backward. A double-acting friction pulley activated the change speed gears. No other car was made until 1899, when he publicized that he was now making gasoline models. He may have made a very few.
( Note: After careful studying the steering for the Shaver, I have come to the conclusion, that it was wheel steering. If so, this was the first one in America with this type of steering. I welcome any comments)
1895 Hartley Motor Trap Automobile
The 1895 Hartley Steamer was made by Hartley Power Supply Company, Chicago. IL. and was an entrant in the November Chicao Times-Herald race. Fuel for his engine could be a combination of gasoline, coal, or wood. He planned to go into production making several models. He did have aan 1897 compressed air model, and a gasoline three-wheel model in 1899.
1896 M.H. Daley Motor Carriage
M. H. Daley, Charles City, IA. made a two-cylinder gasoline model that at 195 pounds was the lightest in the world. He was the maker of gfarm equipment and he was prepared to turn his factory into making his automobile that could be sold for $500..The front suspension could rise twelve incheover bumps in the road relieving undo stress on the body. The car could be driven 100 miles on one gallon of gasoline. By 1898 six cars had been built and he was still making them. He son returned to making farm equipment.
1898 Peck Phaeton Automobile
Barton Peck, Detroit, MI, the son of a dry goods merchant, decided to build an automobile in 1897. His father provided the necessary funds and a shop for his venture. His automobile was a very flambyant for the period. He had it finished and tested in 1898. It had a four cylinder motor that he had designed. His Detroit Horseless Carriage Company was ready for manufacture and began building his second car. Because the smell of gasoline could not eleminated, he came to the conclusion that it would not be a commericial success, and he ceased making it in 1899.
1899 Palmer Brothers Automobile
The Palmer Brothers of Mianus, CT, began making gasoline engines in 1894 when the built the first two-stroke engine. To test their new model engine, they built a car in 1899. with no thought of producing them. The tiller steering was from the rear seat.
1899 Van Wagoner Electric
The partners, Charles Saul and William Van Wagoner, owned the Barnes Cycle Company, Syracuse, NY and in 1899, built a steam automobile that drew very little attention. Later that year, they built two electric prototypes, a runabout and a six passenger touring. Before these went into production, the company was sold to the American Bicycle Company. Van Wagoner served as supertendent at this company, but came back to Syracuse to team up with his former partner to build their Century Model.
1898 Eastman Electric-Cycle Automobile
Henry Eastman, , Cleveland, OH, worked for the Winton Bicycle Company before he started experimenting with his automobile with electric and steam engines. He decided to build his Electro-Cycle using batteries. It was built along with the lines as a three-wheel bicycle that could be called a bicycle automobile. The side panels were insulated sheet metal and completely noiseless. It was extremell light. It had three forward speeds and a reverse with a lever for a motor brake. The three wheeler were best for road conditions and easier to steer out of ruts and vehicle tracks. However, he did not put it into production. Insteasd, he went with a steam runabout modle in 1900. He allied with Jay Hayes, who had made his first electric body, to form the Eastman Automobile Company in Cleveland. The Hayes body was to be the first all sheet metal body in the country and was declaredto be the best. But, in late 1900, with only a few cars made, he decided to get out of automobile manufacturing, and to make only carriage parts. He sold his business in 1901 to the Benson Automoile Company in Cleveland. Hayes kept the Eastman body department and made bodies for a while before departing fo Detroit.
1897 Roberts Electric Stanhope
C. E. Roberts, president of the Chicago Screw Company,Chicago, IL, built an electric stanhope automobile in 1897. Two 60-volt motors, with one attached to each rear wheel, were ued for power. Using both motors, it could cruise at 20 mph, and could go 40 miles per charge.No confirmed evidence for others that he may have built.
1900 Symmonds Runabout
Built by Robert Symmonds, Jr., sometime in the year 1900. Mr. Symmonds became connected with the Thomas B. Jeffery Company during the year of 1901 and later became general superintendent. This is claimed to be the first automobile built in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
1900 Chapman Electric
In 1899, C. C. Chapman, electrician for the Belknap Motor Company, Portland, ME, invented an electric auttomible that at 360 pounds, was the lightest electric in the world. It was designed to carry one person opr two on good roads. Wiih one battery, the mileage was 20 with two people or with an additional battery, 40 miles could be had. The wheels were 32-inch bicycle type. Two one-half horse-power motors were geared to the rear axle. Differnent body styles to be had. He continued until 1901.