Cars Have Come A Long Way Baby…Ummm…Maybe Not Comrades

Cugnot, 1796


Ideas for cars have been around since the 1300’s, perhaps longer.  A number of Italians had designs for wind-driven vehicles. The first windmill car was built by Guido da Vigevano in 1335.  Even Leonardo da Vinci designed a moving vehicle which looked like a clockwork-driven tricycle with tiller steering and a differential.

A Catholic priest, Father Ferdinand Verbiest, reportedly buit a steam-powered vehicle for the Chinese Emperor in 1678.

A steam-powered auto, the fardier  à vapeur, was built in 1769 by a man named Nicolas Cugnot (see photo above).

In 1830 Scotland, Robert Anderson came up with the first known electric car which was a horse-drawn carriage modified to fit the electric motor. Power was supplied by batteries carried on board, but the batteries were not rechargeable. Batteries were improved by 1881 and it started catching on.

The Haynes Pioneer is Indiana’s first internal engine powered automobile. It was known as the First Car.

Elwood Haynes began the idea for the car as a kitchen experiment with an internal combustion engine in the fall of 1893. He demonstrated his car along Pumpkinvine Pike in Kokomo, on July 4, 1894. It preceded commercial automobile production by two years.

Commercial production in Indiana, and concurrently in the United States, began with the first recorded sale of a Haynes-Apperson automobile in the fall of 1896 (Out-of-staters Duryea and Winton also recorded sales in 1896.)


Elwood Haynes with his Pioneer automobile

Haynes has ordered a one-horsepower Sintz engine that he discovered at the Chicago World’s Fair in the fall of 1893. The engine was mounted on sawhorses in the Haynes’ kitchen, and the gasoline and battery connections were installed. After much cranking the engine started. The machine “ran with such speed and vibration that it pulled itself from its attachments to the floor.

Luckily, however, one of the battery wires was wound around the motor shaft and this disconnected the current,” according to Haynes’ The Complete Motorist.

Shortly afterwards, Haynes made arrangements with Elmer Apperson to work in the privacy of Apperson’s Riverside Machine Works. Moreover, the intense vibration of the engine prompted Haynes to design and build a much heavier carriage frame than he had planned originally.

It was two Germans who came up with gas-powered engines that caught on. In 1885, Gottlieb Daimler invented what is thought to be the first gas-powered engine. In 1887, he patented the carburetor. In 1886, Karl Benz received a patent for a gas-powered auto. In 1887, Nicolaus Otto, yet another German, received a patent for a four-stroke, gas-powered motor.

The competition at the time was the Stanley Steamer. The first Stanley Steamer car was made in 1897.

The cars were made from 1902-1904 as the Stanley Bros. under the corporate name Stanley Dry Plate Company (later sold to George Eastman) 1902-1924 as the Stanley Motor Carriage Company.

There were approximately 10,500 cars produced.

Twins Francis E. Stanley (1849–1918) and Freelan O. Stanley (1849–1940) founded the company after selling their photographic dry plate business to Eastman Kodak. During 1898 and 1899, they produced and sold over 200 cars, more than any other U.S. maker.

FO Stanely and wife Flora driving to the top of Mt. Washington to generate publicity for their firm.

In 1899, Freelan and his wife Flora drove one of their cars to the top of Mt. Washingotn in New Hampshire the highest peak in the northeastern United States. The ascent took more than two hours and was the first time a car had climbed the 7.6 miles long Mount Washington Carriage Road. The descent was accomplished by putting the engine in low gear and braking extensively.

The twins later sold the rights to this early design to Locomobile, and in 1902 they formed the Stanley Motor Carriage Company.

In 1903, Freelan Oscar Stanley, was diagnosed with TB. He received a six month death sentence and was sent to Denver. He did not improve. He and his wife then moved to a friend’s cabin in Estes Park. A year later, in 1904, they bought 8.4 acres in Estes Park and built their home. he went on to live another 36 years.

At one point during production, the Stanley’s closed down a section of the manufacturing and started a violin business. They both loved making violins and the Stanley Violin is still one of the most sought after in the world. Freelan traveled to Cremona to purchase spruce for his Violin tops and to Germany for the Bosnian Maple for the back, sides and neck.

Francis Edgar Stanley (1849-1918) died July 21, 1918 when he was in a car accident near Ipswich, MA.

1918 Touring Stanley Steam Car

Because of the death of Mr. Stanley’s brother, the Stanley Steamer Motor Company was sold to Abner Doble in 1918. The company had a few good years but the internal combustion engine won the race.

In 1903 with $28,000 in cash, Henry Ford started the Ford Motor Company in Detroit. His automobiles changed how the world moved.

Henry Ford 1919


On December 1, 1913, Henry Ford installed the first moving assembly line for the mass production of an entire automobile. His innovation reduced the time it took to build a car from more than 12 hours to two hours and 30 minutes.

Ford’s Model T, introduced in 1908, was simple, sturdy and relatively inexpensive. On June 4, 1924, the 10-millionth Model T rolled off the Highland Park assembly line. By the mid-1920’s, everyone wanted a car with all the bells and whistles.

First auto ad in Missouri in 1929:


Gasoline was a waste product at the time and cost about 10 cents a gallon in 1910. The fuel was only sold in pharmacies. There were only 8,000 cars and only 144 miles of paved roads at the time.

When Dwight D. Eisenhower became president, he championed the Interstate Highway System. Construction was authorized by the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956. It had a lot to do with our success as a highly developed industrialized nation.

Cars became more glamorous and focused more on design over the next several decades.

When cars were cars and Americans were distinct individuals:

That is beginning to change as Americans accept the European socialist car style – very collectivist of us:

We also have these stupid, dangerous little cars:

EV Car

Soon we can expect the cars to look like this:

Commie Car

Read more at Car HistoryWiki, Sci Tech, Cruise-in-com and Finding Dulcinea