September 22, 1893 – The first American car

On this day in 1893 brothers Frank and Charles Duryea debuted the first operational personal automobile in the United States on the streets of Springfield, Massachusetts. In the first attempt to publicly drive the car it came to a sudden halt after just a few hundred feet, as the belt transmission failed. Frank made a slight adjustment to the design and the car was driven more than half a mile later in the day.

Charles Duryea (left) and Frank Duryea

Following the debut of their automobile the brothers ended up going their separate ways. Charles went to Illinois to continue with a bicycle business he ran previous to the automotive endeavor and Frank continued tinkering with the new vehicle. A big improvement he made was replacing the belt transmission with gears and friction clutches. 

1895 Duryea road vehicle patent drawing

In 1896 Frank produced 13 identical cars from his design, launching the Duryea Motor Wagon Company and becoming the first US business to produce multiple copies of an automobile and place them for sale. Charles also went on to produce several vehicles, including numerous 3-wheeled creations, but he was ultimately unsuccessful. in the automobile business. In 1904 the Frank launched the Stevens-Duryea Company, which manufactured automobiles out of Springfield. It remained in operation until the 1920s, but Frank had retired as vice president in 1915.

Cover image: the original Duryea automobile

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