The following interview at the Library of Congress is from the American Memory project, an archive of – yes, you guessed it – American Memories. The project started in 1994, thanks to private donations.
Charles Black developed an 18-horsepower “chug buggy” in 1891—the same year that John Lambert developed a three-wheel motor buggy. After seeing the 1895 Chicago Times-Herald race, Lambert went on to produce four-wheel vehicles at his Buckeye Manufacturing Company.
The Stanley twins, Francis Edgar (F. E.) and Freelan Oscar (F.O.), built a steam-powered vehicle in 1897. The Stanley Steamer achieved fame when F. E. Stanley did a mile in 2:11 on a dirt track with a 30-degree incline.
In the interview “Transportation,” Arthur Botsford of Thomaston, Connecticut, recalled his “first and fastest auto ride” and the earliest automobile makes:
I was hikin’ along over towards Terryville to get the trolley and Jack come along and I flagged him. I was late. I says, “Jack, can we make the trolley,” and he says, “‘Sure,” and how we did fly. We made it all right.
The different cars they used to be. I used to keep a list of ’em. There was the Pope Hartford, and the Stevens Duryea, and the Locomobile, and the Peerless and the National, and the Saxon, and the Metz—I can’t remember them all.
Billy Gilbert, that used to live next to me here, he had a Stanley Steamer. He was an engineer. He’s out in Californy now. Spent all his life on the railroads and he swore by steam. Wouldn’t have a gasoline engine.
After he moved to Californy he wrote me a letter. Said there was a big hill out there beyond San Francisco nine miles long. Said ten tow cars was kept busy on that hill all the time. But that steamer of his just ate it up.
Francis Donovan, interviewer, January 5, 1939.
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