Mode of Travel and Transport: Motorized Vehicles


Figure 1.--European experimenters led in the development of early automobiles, but American tinkerers took an early interest. And many automobile compaies were founded. Most soon failed. The car here is the 1900 Marlboro Steam Runabout. This photograph would have been taken about 1901-02 as there are a few modifications such as the headlights. The Marlboro Motor & Carriage Company was one of many small companies that began manufacturing automobiles. They began producing steam cars in Marlboro, Massachusetts (1899). The company was founded by Orrin P. Walker and existed only through 1902. The lady was Mary Spencer. Notice the neighborhood which tells you something about the people who could afford these early models. Mrs. Spncer's car was steam powered. Other early models were electric battery powered. These early models did not need a wind screen, because they did not go that fast. Nothing produced power like a gasoline or diesel powered internal compustion engine. Women preferred electric power, because crank starting internal combustion engines required upper body strength and was a little dangerous. Once the self starter was invented (1911), electric and steam power quickly disappeared.

Before the turn of the 20th century the automobile appeared. No mechanical device affected American culture more than the automobile. Much of the growth in the American economy after the turn of the 20th century was centered on the new automobile. The automobile appeared first, but as more powerful engines devloped we see trucks and busses as well. The American economy by the 1920s was to a large extent centered on the automobile. It was the industry centered on the automobile and trucks that peovided the back bone for the arsenal of democracy that helped defeat the NAZIs and Japanese militarists in World War II. The autmobile also have a profound cultural imapct on America. City planning began to take place when the automobile in mind. Sometimes more attention was given go the automobile than people. The autmobile made possible the move to the suburbs, especilly after World War II. There wre many other cultural impacts of the automobile. Few events were more important for an America boy than obtaining that all important driving license. Other countries were similarly affected, but not to the same extent as the United States. Historical images of boys' clothing sometimes appeared in automobile adverisements. Many American families would have photographs taken around the family automobile. It is interesting to note when searching through E-Bay, the number of American portraits picturing the children and parents with the family car.

Invention and Early Development

There is an intense debate as to who invented the automobile. This is because the technologies that made the automobile possible came together at the same time (late-19th century), Quite a number of individuals seized on the connections and opportunities. The earliest inventors were all Europeans (Karl Benz, Gottlieb Daimler, Emile Levassor, and Nicolaus Otto). Several vehicles appeared in the late-19th century with automobile features. All kinds of people were experimenting with new ideas and new technologies. While there some difference of opinion on this, many believe that first automobile with all the key features was the German 1901 Mercedes. It was designed by Wilhelm Maybach for Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft. It featured a 35 horsepower (hp) engine weighing only 14 pounds per horsepower which gave it a top speed of an astonishing at the time 53 miles per hour. The development of the automible took a very different track in Europe and America which would have a huge impact on the history of the 20th century. Europe at first took the lead in the development of the automobile. The most advanced automobile technology in the world was that of Daimler. The company's profit strategy was tobproduce a high quality automobile as a luxury product for wealthy consumers. Daimler's factory employed some 1,700 workers, but only produced about 1,000 cars annually. Other European manufacturrs followed the same coporate strategy. The result was that as late as World War II, you see photigraphs of German towns and cities with very few, often no cars on the streets. Hitler's vaunted autobahn carried very few cars. America at the time was already an industrial giant and many automobile companies were founded. European designs were undeniably superior. One of the most important early American manufacture was Ransom E. Olds. The comparison between Olds motorized horse buggy and Daimler's high performance Mercedes was striking. Olds‘ 1901-1906 model was a jarring one-cylinder, 3hp, tiller-steered, curved-dash Oldsmobile. I has been described a essentially a motorized horse buggy. But the first Olds had a big advantage -- it sold for only $650, maning that middle-class Americans could afford one. Olds as a result out produced Daimler-- achieving 5,508 cars (1904). It surpassed the production of any European company. And this was just the beginning. Henry Ford's Tin Lizzie (Model T) bought the price down to what workers could afford. European workers struggled to purchase bicycles. American industry to supply the materials needed to fill the demand that developed left Europein the dust. But the impact was not just economi and sicial, it was also military. The Germans with their high quality, low output automobile indudtry fought World War I on foot nd wiuth atual horses. America provided the Allies huge numbers of truck. The impact on Workd War II would be even greater.

Chronology

Before the turn-of the 20th century the motorized vehicle. The first such vehicle was the automobile. There is a good bit of debate as to who actually invented it. Sone want to go back to Lionardo de Vincchi (15 century). But until an engine was developed, there could be no motorized vehicle. While people argue endlessly about who created the first automobile, a good candidate would be German inventor Karl Benz. He sems to have created the first true automobile powered by an internal combustion engine. (1885-86). The cars that Benz and other early automotive pioneers created were finely crafted items for the well-to-do meaning that they had little impact on society. Thiscganged with American atomobile mogul Henry Ford and the Model-T (1908). No one would call Ford's Tin Lizzy finecrafted, but it was cheap. And even low income americansoukd buy one Some American workers were driving to work while Europeans workes used bicycles. Ford's innovation was the assembly line. America was already the most important industrial powe in the world. The autombile industry proceeded to power America beyond the the limits of the European powers. This not only began to reshape america, but increase American wages. It had other ramifications. American truks gave the Allies a mobility that the Germans not have on the Western front during World War I. American industry would have an even greater impact on World War II.

Types of Vehicles

The first motorized vehicle was the automobile or car. It began as a play thing for the rich, but thanks to Henry Ford became a conumer product that most people could afford. The Model-T appeared (1908). It was an item that was both functional and aleasure item. The automobile came first because the major technological challenge in building motor vehicles was how to power it. Thus the lightest vehicle was the car. Motocycles were lighter, but not suitable for early engines. Early engines were not powerful enough for hevier vehicles like trucks and busses. And cost was also an issues. European automobile companies made excellent automobliles, but very expensive ones. The same was true of ommercial vehickes. Heavier commercial vehicles to be successful had to be relatively inexpensive to make their purchase cost effective. Again it was Henry Ford who made these heavier vehicles possible by reducing prices. Ford introduced the Model T One-Ton truck chassis, the first chassis built specifically for trucks (1917). America's trucks had an important impact on World War I. An interesting bus/coach-type vehicle was the British charabanc. The French name related to the horse-drawn version first appearing in France. We have never noted these in America. We are not sure about Europe.

Engines

There are several different ways of poweing motorized vehicles. Developers experimented with the the various options in the late-19th century. Steam, electric, and internal combustion were all tried. Internal combustion was not an immediate hit. There were a lot of steam and elctric powered cars. Internal combustion had a major draw back, it had to be started with a hand crank. This required considerable upper body strength and was dangerous because it could rachet back, possibly breaking an arm. Internal comustion won out. The primary reason that gasoline and diesel could generate much more power than any fuel source. Not oy was it more powered, but a substantial qantitycould be varries in a tank, giving internal comustion engines a far greater range than any other engine. (Range and refuling is still a problem with electric powered cars today.) As aresult, internal combustion engines dominated the industry during the 20th century. Today there has been a revival of electric engines. Ad new engines are beung developed runing on natural gas and hydrogen. Solar may be possible some day, but has obvious drawbacks as a transportation fuel.

Countries

The automobile was to have its greatest social and economic impact on the United States. It was in Europe, however, that it first appeared. Here the vleaders were France and Germany.

America

No mechanical device affected American culture more than the automobile. Much of the growth in the American economy after the turn of the 20th century was centered on the new automobile. The American economy by the 1920s was to a large extent centered on the automobile. It was the industry centered on the automobile and trucks that peovided the back bone for the arsenal of democracy that helped defeat the NAZIs and Japanese militarists in World War I. The autmobile also have a profound cultural imapct on America. City planning began to take place when the automobile in mind. Sometimes more attention was given go the automobile than people. The autmobile made possible the move to the suburbs, especilly after World War II. There wre many other cultural impacts of the automobile. Few events were more important for an America boy than obtaining that all important driving license. Other countries were similarly affected, but not to the same extent as the United States. Historical images of boys' clothing sometimes appeared in automobile adverisements. Many American families would have photographs taken around the family automobile. It is interesting to notec when searching through E-Bay, the number of American portraits picturing the children and parents with the family car.

England


France


Germany


Sources

Bruno, Leonard. Science and Technology Firsts (Detroit: 1997).







HBC







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Created: June 28, 2003
Last updated: 8:20 PM 3/14/2018