Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 24, 2013
Winton horseless carriage ad

Winton horseless carriage ad

March 24, 1898: The first American-built automobile is purchased by Robert Allison of Port Carbon, Pennsylvania – a coal mining town. The Winton horseless carriage was made by Scottish immigrant Alexander Winton. The Winton Bicycle Company incorporated in 1897 and began hand building cars, piece by piece. The body had painted sides. There were padded seats, a leather roof, gas lamps, and B. F. Goodrich Company supplied the rubber tires. Winton advertised his product in Scientific American and sold 22 cars the first year.

James Ward Packard bought a car and liked it so much, he started his own company. Even with competition, Winton remained the top selling car manufacturer of 1899 when the company sold more than 100 cars. Not only was he making the car available, but to deliver the carriage, he designed and built the first car hauler. By 1901, publicity created an expanding market when two of the Vanderbilts purchased Winton cars. In that same year, Winton’s car lost a race to young Henry Ford of Grosse Pointe, Michigan.

In 1903, Horatio Nelson Jackson took 64 days to drive his Winton touring car from San Francisco to New York City, the first person to drive across the country. The car had to be hoisted over rocky terrain and mud holes. By 1904, Winton was producing cars with seating for five passengers at a list price of $2,500 (about $54,000 today). More and more companies began to compete for the new market and by 1924 Winton stopped building cars. He did continue to build engines until he sold the company to General Motors in 1930.

There have been literally hundreds and hundreds of car manufacturers in the US that have now gone out of business. From ABC to Zabardust, from Armstrong Electric – formed in 1885 and later a builder of cars – to Oldsmobile which went out of business in 2004. Auto-locomotion was written about as early as 1678 using a steam engine, however there is no physical evidence to suggest any were built. The first gasoline powered car was built by Karl Benz in 1885 in Mannheim, Germany. In 2002 there were about 590 million passenger cars in the world, about one for every eleven people.

“A pedestrian is someone who thought there were a couple of gallons left in the tank. – unknown

“Hug your kids at home, but belt them in the car.” – unknown

“Americans are broad-minded people. They’ll accept the fact that a person can be an alcoholic, a dope fiend, a wife beater, and even a newspaperman, but if a man doesn’t drive, there is something wrong with him.” – Art Buchwald

“The car has become a secular sanctuary for the individual, his shrine to the self, his mobile Walden Pond.” – Edward McDonagh

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Concept cars are built to showcase either new styling or new technology. They are often shown at motor shows where the makers/designers are able to gather customer reaction to the vehicle. General Motors designer Harley Earl is often cited as inventing the idea of a concept car. These vehicles never go into production directly (as these early makers of cars did with their innovative designs) but go through many different designs. New cars are built with an eye toward safety and cost as well as being practical and pleasing to the consumer market. Another name for these avant guard cars are prototypes although many of them never get built as mainstream cars for sale to the general public.

Also on this day: Alaska Mess – In 1989, the Exxon Valdez ran aground and began to spill oil.
Metropolitan Life – In 1868, the insurance company was formed.
Beating a Killer – In 1882, Robert Koch announced the cause of TB.

One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Bobby Dias said, on March 24, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    Many ridiculed these first manufacturers at first- now they rank up there with saints. And thank god there were rich people like the Vanderbilts who were so rich they could afford to back the earlier mass manufacturers. Even with some good unions, J Paul Getty said to me that the older unions were soo selfish about their own paychecks that they would not recognize the new unions the billionaires were giving paychecks to by starting up new products. Like in South Africa lately the violence was mostly union against union.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: