The earliest practical cars produced in the United States date to the late-eighteenth century. Steam technology was first introduced in the 1700's and became commonly associated with trains. Steam translated well to automobile usage; however, it required an understanding of pressure valves and was not easy to use or repair. Governments legislated against the use of steam for automobile usage, which hindered their popularity. A number of companies attempted to make cars that worked off of steam - most notably the Stanley Motor Carriage Company - but it did not become hugely popular in part because other technologies were introduced. Electric batteries were put on cars beginning in the mid-nineteenth century. Early electric cars were unable to hold a charge, though, and rarely allowed for fast speeds or long distances. They proved only marginally successful by the dawn of the twentieth century, mostly with inner-city taxi companies.
Many consider the day when two German men, Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler, independently submitted applications for patents on gasoline-powered engines (January 29, 1886) as the birth of the modern automobile. The Duryea brothers are widely credited with building and demonstrating the first gasoline-powered automobiles in the United States at their Springfield, Massachusetts-based business - the Duryea Motor Wagon Company. That was in 1893. And a new industry, as well as a new way of life, began.
Hundreds of different manufacturers of automobiles sprang up around the country after that, everyone competing to sell their cars. Ransom E. Olds was the first to mass produce his Runabout (from 1901 through 1905). Henry Ford learned from Olds and improved upon his assembly line when he sold his Model T. The T would eventually be regarded as the most important car in history - its impact on the lives of people around the world cannot be exaggerated. Of course, he had competition. The American Treasure Tour is proud to be able to display a few examples of the Model T, as well as other cars from the first few decades of the twentieth century.
We hope you enjoy our preserved automobile collection. Unless otherwise noted, these cars have received minimal restoration. When possible, they present their original paint, dating back over a hundred years in some instances, from when they were brand new.
1905 Franklin Touring Sedan:
- Herbert Franklin of Syracuse, New York made his fortune in newspapers, real estate, bicycles, and die-casting prior toopening theFranklin Automobile Company in 1902.
- Engineer and son of the founder of Syracuse, John Wilkinson designed the air-cooled engine used to power these vehicles. (Note: The engine is under the hood sideways, and the crank to start it is on the right-hand side, near the steering wheel.)
- Syracuse residents filed complaints against Franklin for using residential streets to test their cars - driving as fast as 30mph and causing a safety hazard for homeowners.
1907 ABC Touring Sedan (Restored):
- The ABC Motor Vehicle Manufacturing Company operated out of its St. Louis, Missouri headquarters from 1906 to 1910 under the leadership of Amedee B. Cole (ABC), originally with the name Auto Buggy Manufacturing Company.
- Cole was an electrical engineer who aspired to provide his customers with a car “as simple as you can guess to operate.” It sold for $650.
- His high wheeler was advertised as “the cheapest high-grade car in America.” Unfortunately for Cole, high wheeler popularity waned by 1910, which forced him to declare bankruptcy.
c.1909 Sears Motor Buggy:
- Richard Sears established his mail order company in 1886 in an effort to sell overstock watches. His catalog, introduced in 1896, would become one of the most famous in the world.
- When Sears retired in 1908, new president Robert Wood introduced the first car to the catalog, the Motorbuggy. A high wheeler designed by Alvaro Krotz, the vehicle sold originally for $395 on page 1,150 of the 1909 catalog, advertised as being “So easy to drive, a child could do it,” and capable of reaching every speed between one and twenty-five.
- Sears retired the Motorbuggy in 1912 as being unprofitable and outdated. Around the same time they did this, they invested more into the Sears houses, which they sold to Americans around the country - the materials and instructions necessary to construct a home would arrive via train wherever the purchasers owned land.
- The Franklin Automobile Company produced luxury vehicles that incorporated air-cooled engines. Prior to the development of anti-freeze, this made driving possible in freezing conditions.
- By 1909, Franklin shifted the direction of the engine from sideways (refer to the 1905 Franklin) to forward. The crank is in the more-familiar location at the front of the car.
- When Franklin ceased production in 1934 due in large part to the Great Depression, their factory in Syracuse was purchased by the Carrier Corporation for production of their air conditioners. Franklin’s assets were taken over by Willys-Overland of Ohio.