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September 22, 1893 – Duryea Brothers test first car

On this day in 1893, brothers Frank and Charles Duryea debuted their first automobile on the streets of Springfield, Massachusetts. That initial drive came to a sudden halt after just a few hundred feet when their self-engineered transmission failed. Frank made a slight adjustment to the design and had the car back up and running, covering a half a mile later in the day. This event is often regarded as the first time an American manufactured, gasoline powered car was driven in the country.

Above: Duryea Patent. Top: Duryea Brothers

They build a second Duryea Wagon in 1894, using it to enter the Chicago Times Herald race the next year. The Duryea completed the 54 mile course ahead of the pack, winning the first automobile race in America.

The Duryea Motor Wagon Company officially launched in 1896. That year, the company produced 13 identical vehicles. This marked was the first time a US business manufactured multiple copies of an automobile and placed them for sale. One could call it the first mass-produced automobile in America, depending on the chosen definition of the term. However, the brothers’ partnership began to fizzle, jeopardizing any chances of success in the new auto industry.

1894 Duryea. The oldest known Duryea to survive. By Infrogmation CC BY-SA 3.0

By the end of the century, the brothers split ways over differences in the handling of business finances. Frank went on to partner with gun maker Stevens to produce the Stevens-Duryea until 1927. Charles continued to produce Duryea vehicles until 1917 from a factory in Reading, PA.

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