Let us go back more than 100 years and stand on a main street of an American town. Since Detroit, Michigan has many links to the American Automobile, let us imagine that we are there. In the late 1800s Detroit was more like a small country town without skyscrapers, large buildings, factories, masses of people and automobiles.
Only bicycles, horse drawn streetcars, buggies and wagons are found on the streets. In the distance comes the call of a railroad train and on the river a steamboat whistles. In the late 1800s these were the only forms of transportation.
More than one hundred years ago there were no Chevrolet, Ford, Buick, Chrysler or Cadillac. Also absent were the National Sextet, Franklin, Hudson, Cole, Maxwell, The Moon plus 100s of other small American Automobile manufactures located all across this country.
More than one hundred years ago a trip of ten miles to town and back took a day. The country was settled along rail and water transportation routes. The American Automobile was to become the instrument for changing this situation.
At American Automobiles we not only pay tribute to Chevrolet, Chrysler and Ford but also the hundred's of small American Automobile Manufactures all across this nation.
Long before the late 1800s men dreamed of the automobile. An engine run by steam power was the first step toward a motor driven vehicle. Unfortunately, early inventors had enemies in the railroads and the horse-and-carriage trade, both feared the horseless carriage as a competitors.
In 1860 a French engineer, Jean Joseph Lenoir developed the first 2 cycle gasoline engine. However, at first it didn't work very well but Lenoir improved his engine and by 1862 put it on a vehicle. Soon after a four cycle motor was invented by the Germans and by the late 1870s complete motor vehicles were built in Europe by Otto, Daimler and
Benz. If the Germans must be given credit for inventing a gasoline carriage, then the French must be applauded for making it more workable, popular and stylish. The French gave the horseless carriage a name, "Automobile" (self-moving) and by 1898 was accepted even in America.
The First American Automobile
In the early 1890s the Americans entered the automobile scene after some experimenting with steam and gas propelled boats and wagons. Naturally, they learned
something from the Germans and French, but they also made contributions of their own.
The first successful American Automobile was constructed by tool and die maker, Frank Duryea and financed by his brother Charles Duryea. On or about September 20, 1893, he successfully drove the first American horseless carriage on the streets of Springfield, Massachusetts. It was certainly better than Daimler’s or Benz’s early productions.
Frank Duryea saw that this first American Automobile could be immensely improved and began to rebuild it. It was completed in 1894 and made the Duryea Brothers famous.