History of Early American Automobile Industry


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Feedback for this project is appreciated.
Royal Feltner

Automobile Bodies Built in Amesbury from 1894-1932

The History of the American Automobile Industry has been three years in the making.

There is a tremendous number of articles that has a heading of "Copied From". This is done for two reasons: one being to show the authenticity of the information and the other is to give the reader a sense of being able to read the article in the writer's own words in the journalism of the day.

No research is complete nor is any researcher's work infallible. We are fortunate at this time in history to have tools that a few years ago, no one would dream that it would be possible. The greatest one is the digitizing of thousand of pages material that has been saved by libraries for hundreds of years. Digitizing was accomplished by librarians who have spent countless and  tedious hours turning page after page so a picture of each page could be taken. By their doing this work, we can now sit back and with a click of a "mouse", read material that was hitherto impossible to find.

History is made by dreamers of a better way to do things and be willing to risk ridicule and fortunes to do so. The history of the automobile industry is the most complicated, yet fascinating one, that anyone can study or write about. The men behind the companies were industrial icons who accomplished what naysayers claimed to be useless and fool hardy, that a machine that could replace the horse. It took years to prove this and fortunes were lost in doing so, but in the end the machine, called automobile, succeeded.

We owe a great debt of gratitude to these men for what they accomplished.


In my research on antique American automobiles, I have used some material several sources including American Automobiles, Concept Cars, Remarkable Cars, Coachbuilt web sites, Beverly Rae Kimes two books, Standard Catalogue of American Cars and Pioneers, Engineers, and Scoundrels. When I received the latter as a Christmas present last year, I noticed that the book contained a great deal of material that I had on my web site Early American Automobiles , but I had pictures and advertisements of almost all the automobiles mentioned in her book.

When I created my web site, I wanted to make sure that it was for research and any one could copy it and there would not be any company advertisements or "sign-ins" to read it. It is free for everyone. It was to show what I have found and not to invalidate what someone else has written. If any material is published from this this site, I would appreciate it if it were mentioned. I also wanted to emphasize the important role that Amesbury had in the early devolpement of this industry. Amesbury, a population of 7,000, at the time, had thirty body builders and forty-three other companies making parts. Eight automobiles were also manufactured. The reputation of its workers was  known throughout the industry. This is not hype, it is recorded in all of the automobile magazines of the period.

I have been told by many people that I should publish my research on the Early American Automobiles. I have given it much thought on how best to do it. For me, at my age and lack of knowledge about publishing, the task would be too difficult and may never get done and the cost of the book would be such that a limited number of people would risk the price to buy it. I have decided to publish my book as an attachment to my web site. The advantages of doing this in this fashion is that it can be easily revised for corrections and information can be updated as more research is done. Images can be shown in different sizes and full color pictures of restored cars can be seen.

It took money and lots of it. Corporations were formed by moneyed men who cared about their investments and as long as the automobile gave a good return on them, they were satisfied and the company stayed in business. When the returns faltered, the company went into receivership or bankruptcy. The inventor was hired as the chief engineer and could be ousted at the whim of the board of governors.

During the buildup of the industry,  it seemed as if  in every city, town, and hamlet, someone was building an automobile and had hopes of putting it into production. Most of these made less than ten cars and a lot more were only prototypes.

As a whole, this book is about the history of the industry and deals with the economic conditions that affected it. It aslo contains a great deal of material about corporations trying to control the industry as well as individual companies struggling to stay in business.

This research has given an eighty-year old retiree something to do other than playing computer games and watching Encore Westerns on television. I have done it for the love of it and nothing else. I have never had a computer lesson and everything that I have accomplished has been done by trials and errors. My fat-finger pick and peck typing has caused me to proof read several times to correct mistakes.

This book is dedicated to my wife.

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