November 5, 1895 – Selden patents the automobile

George B. Selden probably didn’t think that it would take 16 years to receive his patent when he filed one with the US Patent Office for an internal combustion engine on May 8, 1979, but it did. His original patent not only included the engine, but its application on a four wheel vehicle, some eight years before the introduction of the Benz wagon in Germany. Due to many amendments to his application the legal process took an exceptionally long time, causing him not to receive his patent until this day in 1895. Selden was inspired to build an internal combustion engine upon viewing a huge one developed by George Brayton displayed at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876. In 1878 he succeeded in producing a one-cylinder, 400-pound version of an internal combustion engine that featured an enclosed crankshaft. He was assisted by Rochester machinist Frank H. Clement and his personal assistant William Gomm. Following the receival of the patent Selden never produced an automobile, but instead sold patent rights and charged royalties to companies who did in the early auto industry. It started with the Electrical Vehicle Company, even though these cars did not have internal combustion engines, Selden owned the patent for the “automobile.” Working with that company he began to negotiate royalties from other companies before starting his own production company. Eventually Ford and four other car companies thrown into patent infringement lawsuits. Ford eventually won the case after an appeal, in a case which lasted nearly a decade. The patent ran out the following year. Image: George B Selden driving an automobile in 1905 – public domain

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