In 1896 there were but five gasoline automobiles in the United States; the Duryea, Ford, Haynes, Lambert, and an imported Benz. All five were purely experimental machines, although considerable effort was made to sell duplicates of the Duryea and Haynes. There was absolutely no market and it was not until March 24, 1898, that the first bonafide sale was consummated. Alexander Winton, who ranked with the pioneers, Duryea, Ford and Haynes, from the view point of experimentation, sold a one-cylinder Winton automobile to Robert Allison, of Port Carbon, PA; received payment for it and shipped the car to Allison April 1, 1898.
The Waverley Company, of Indianapolis, built its first electric carriage in 1897.
note: the first Studebaker automobiles were electric 1902.
The National Road, built early in the nineteenth century, from Cumberland, MD, through PA, OH, IN and IL, was the first and only attempt of the Federal Government to stand sponsor for a highway project. The road was approximately 1,000 miles long and was used extensively until the day when railroads paralleled it. It fell into disuse and disrepair, and about 1840 was abandoned as one entire road. From the time it was built until the present, parts of it have been in constant use. In 1910, when interest in long permanent roads for automobiles use was kindled, the route of the old National Road was rediscovered, and since then it has been repaired and still is in use today.
The first super speedway to be built in the United States was the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, over which annually a 500 mile contest was staged. The moving spirits of the track were Carl G. Fisher, James A. Allison, Arthur C. Newby, and Frank H. Wheeler. The Indianapolis course was built of brick and was constructed for a theoretical speed of 61 miles per hour. The theoretical speed limit is point where the car begins to skid. On the brick turns at Indianapolis, the slewing and slipping of the driving wheels begin after a speed of 61 miles an hour was attained. That, however, is not the practical and actual limit of speed that could be attained on the track. The 2.5 mile oval is capable of accommodating a much higher rate as has been shown in the races since 1911 and in numerous public and private trials.
Electric automobiles are not new inventions. For instance, Indianapolis-built Waverley Electrics were built from 1898 to 1916. Here are some comments from their 1911 catalog.
Among the inventions of recent years, the place of the electric automobile is unquestionably in the vein of progress. Whatever convenience or popularity attaches temporarily to the expansive force of steam of the explosive energy of gasoline, every thinking person is convinced that the motive power of the future is the silent, subtle, irresistible turning power of the electric motor. The force is everywhere and in everything, requiring only to be harnessed, set in motion and properly directed to do the work of the world.
It is equally certain that the place of the electric automobile is in the first rank of society. In the twentieth century America, the phrase “Electric carriage company” is beginning to take a similar place as denoting the special class of citizens who appreciate and observe good form in carriages well as in clothes, in dwellings, in manners and in everything else.
Again, the place of the Electric is in the center of family life. It is a carriage of ready service and equal convenience for every member of the family, for the office, the church, the theater, the neighborhood call, the shopping excursion, the drive on the boulevard, the trip to the park, or the country club. It dispenses with chauffer or driver, presents no mechanical difficulties and causes no trouble. Even the children may operate it with safety.
The place of the Waverley Electric is all of this and more. It is the place of leadership, of constant advance along its own individual lines, of steady progress in all those minor details that make for perfection. It is the place of rank and influence, the place of recognized superiority in point of excellence, in beauty and fitness of design, in mechanical efficiency and durability. The ownership of a Waverley suggests no invidious (causing envy) comparison, invites no criticisms. It is the accepted standard of its class. The purchaser of a Waverley is never called upon to explain or apologize for his choice.
Different models of Waverley’s have special points of convenience and excellence. All are alike in the essentials of Waverley efficiency, workmanship, and style.
Some of these points may be valid today. That’s how electric vehicles were marketed over 100 years ago.
Waverley electric vehicles were built in Indianapolis under four different corporate names: Indiana Bicycle Company (1898 1901), International Motor Car Company (1901-1903), Pope Waverley (1903 1907), and The Waverley Company (1908-1916). The first Waverley electric car was a two-passenger Stanhope with tiller steering, 36-inch wheels with pneumatic tires, and a single headlight.
Waverley exhibited one Stanhope, four dos-a-dos, and one delivery wagon at the New York Auto Show in May 1899. This line-up showed that its factory was—at that time—manufacturing in quantities for a variety of needs. All the cars—except for one dos-a-dos—were sold and delivered after the show.
Waverley offered several other models like the piano box runabout and an open road wagon. About 2,000 vehicles were sold by 1903. Waverley then built the first coupe body ever constructed for an electric vehicle. The popularity of this type of closed car was so great that all the electric manufacturers soon devoted their attention to closed passenger cars. The demand for coupes, broughams, and limousines steadily increased, to the neglect of the smaller open cars. By 1909, the Silent Waverley Electrics used a “noiseless” shaft drive from the traction motor to the rear wheels.
The 1911 Model 81 Brougham’s interior was finished in broadcloth, broad lace and “Goat Morocco” leather. It used either solid or pneumatic tires with side-lever steering and ran on Exide, Waverley, and Edison batteries. Standard luxuries included a flower vase, two vanity cases with watch and salt bottles, a match safe and cigar holder, and an umbrella holder. In 1912, Waverley offered the first front-drive electric.
The 40-page 1914 catalog gave copious descriptions of six models including the Roadster Coupe that rode on a 104-inch wheelbase and looked like a conventional gasoline roadster with a long hood and a false radiator. The four-passenger Brougham was offered in three versions: front-drive, rear-drive, and front-and-rear-drive. To help promote sales, the company published “A day with a Silent Waverley.” This pamphlet charted the day of a fictitious woman as she rolled up the miles in the Silent Waverley traveling from the office, school, shopping, and other engagements. She could travel, according to the pamphlet, without the fussing and fuming of gasoline autos.
Most electrics, though almost noiseless, were annoyingly slow (5-25 m.p.h.) and their batteries needed recharging after a few hours of use. Suitable for densely populated areas, electrics were seldom seen in the open country because of their limited traveling range (up to 75 miles). Although later Waverley’s furnished a range between charges sufficient for about two day’s use, the popularity of electric cars began to wane. Waverley electrics were no longer produced after 1916.
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Indiana once vied for Michigan’s title as the automotive titan of the United States. It was at a time when the names of automobiles like Duesenberg, Stutz and Cord brought worldwide acclaim to the Hoosier state. Indiana’s contributions to automotive history have been numerous. Tilt steering, cruise control and hydraulic brakes are just three examples of the innovations created by Indiana automotive pioneers. Yet the innovators themselves have become nearly forgotten–overlooked as we take their inventions increasing for granted as part of the standard equipment on today’s models.
Indiana’s automotive innovation began with Elwood Haynes’ kitchen experiment on an internal combustion engine in the fall of 1893. Haynes’ research and development led to the demonstration of his “Pioneer” automobile along Pumpkivine Pike, outside Kokomo, on July 4, 1894. Haynes and two passengers traveled at a speed of seven miles an hour and drove about one and one-half miles further into the country. He then turned the auto around, and ran the four miles into town without making a single stop.
“I remember as the “little machine” made its way along the streets we were met by a “bevy” of girls mounted on wheels.,” Haynes noted. “I shall never forget the expression on their faces as they wheeled aside, separating like a flock of swans and gazing wonder-eyed at the uncouth and utterly unexpected “little machine.”
In 1898 the Haynes-Apperson Company was incorporated and auto production was on its way in Indiana.
By the late 1800s Indiana’s plentiful supply of lumber had also lured several industries into its borders, including the makers of carriages and wagons. The automobile industry in the early 1900s was a natural offspring of carriage manufacturers, which could provide not just parts but the skilled labor as well. Five Indiana manufacturers entered commercial automobile production in the late 1890s.
By 1900, The Haynes-Apperson Automobile Company was one of the few firms in the country with annual production exceeding 100 units. In the 1900s, 74 different models were introduced by Indiana manufacturers. These models range from A to Z, with names like Auburn, Cole, InterState, Lambert, Marmon, Maxwell, National, Overland, Premier, Richmond, Studebaker, Waverly, and Zimmerman.
The growth spurt between 1910 and 1920 separated the nation’s auto makers into two groups–the “mass-produced auto giants” and the “craftsmen.” Most of Indiana’s auto makers chose to be “craftsmen” and purchased automotive parts and assembled them by hand. Thus, these companies were small, and many became known for producing high-class and high-priced cars. Nearly every one of the Indiana cars that became well-known were in this category, includ¬ing names like Duesenberg, Cord, Stutz and Cole, appealing to the upper end of the consumer market.
The teens saw the introduction of another 69 Indiana models. Included in this group are Elcar, Empire, Jack Rabbit, Lexington, McIntyre, McFarlan, Monroe, Parry, ReVere, and Stutz.
Until about 1920, there seemed to enough demand for both the “mass-produced” and “high-quality” cars. However, a series of eco¬nomic factors at this time helped contribute to the decline of Hoosier auto making. Price slashing and an expansion-crazed environment trapped Indiana manufacturers in a philosophical battle with the Michigan titans. Hoosiers were ill-prepared for this kind of competition, and most wanted to remain craftsmen choosing to concen¬trate on “higher priced” vehicles instead of diversifying. Plus, the economic recession in the early 1920s added more financial burdens on the population, which became increasingly interested in the “mass-produced auto.”
Michigan had the financial backers willing to commit financial resources to give the state’s auto manufacturing the boost it needed. The Hoosier financial community generally proved to be of little assistance to its own local automobile industry.
Indiana in the twenties saw this decline to 22 models introduced. Among these were Blackhawk, Cord, Duesenberg, Elgin, Erskine, H.C.S., Lafayette, and Roosevelt.
Studebaker was the lone Hoosier survivor of the depression, continuing production for another 30 years, ending in December 1963.
Commercial production of the automobile in America began a little over 120 years ago, and America’s lifestyle has never been the same. Indiana automakers have made many contributions to that history. So, the next time you drive your car, you might wonder where you’d be without Indiana’s continuing automotive innovation and contributions.
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When looking at the advertising of automobiles in the first part of the twentieth century, one realizes that the medium quickly evolved to featuring gift buying. One early example from my collection is the wedding gift theme of a 1905 Pope-Waverley ad in Life Magazine. It suggested, “It’s quite the thing nowadays to present the bride with a Pope-Waverley Electric. No gift imaginable can make as lasting an impression or give the recipient more genuine pleasure and convenience. These superb carriages are ‘always ready,’ clean, noiseless, and simple to operate.” How about an electric car for a wedding present?
Studebaker’s December 7, 1929, Literary Digest ad is probably one of the highmarks for the decade. Three color illustrations told the story, “Give her the keys to happiness.” The main illustration is of a father and daughter looking fondly at their gift of keys to a Studebaker Eight to the mother. “Each year this gracious Christmas custom grows in favor…the presentation of the Keys to Happiness to one well beloved. An attractive gift case holds the shining keys for one of Studebaker’s smart new motor cars — an Eight by the Builder of Champions! One should remember that this ad was conceived before the October 1929 stock market crash which had cataclysmic effects for advertising. You can’t put a car under the Christmas tree, what about gift wrapping the keys?
In the mid 1930’s, Studebaker produced The Wheel magazines for the auto show seasons. On the cover of the 1932 edition, we see a chic woman wearing furs showing a President convertible roadster to an older woman seated in a Studebaker electric. Inside the magazine there are eight pages of color illustrations interspersed with 12 pages of copy and black and white photographs of the “Triumphant New Studebakers.” Auto shows are about future auto dreams, aren’t they?
These types of materials are part of the sales process in creating attention, interest, and desire in the prospective customer’s mind. Auto advertising over the years was a good barometer of the health of the economy and marketplace.
I love sharing these vignettes about early auto advertising from my collection. They demonstrate that the only thing new in advertising is the delivery medium. The message from earlier times holds true today.
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