top of page
Suggested Training Aids:
  • Brass Era (Edwardian) auto if available

  • Models of Auto if real autos not available -

    • Larger scale like Franklin Mint, Danbury Mint work well,

      • 1897 Duryea model

      • 1903 Cadillac Model A model

      • 1909 Ford T

 

Find our photo library here
Find education videos here

HCCA – Who we are, what we do?

The Horseless Carriage Club of America was established in 1937 making it one of the oldest continuously functioning motor clubs in the world. It was established to cater for Pre 1916 vehicles (manufactured on or before 31st December 1915) and other “brass era” accessories and memorabilia.

 

The Club is a Touring Club and organizes events throughout the America’s and the rest of the world. The tours are a movable museum, with participants regularly attired in period correct costume. The Club ethos is to educate and involve the public and particularly school students in the history of the vehicles and the hobby as well.

 

Below are a set of details designed to provide an overview for lesson plans for students from Kindergarten to High School seniors on the history of the motor car from it’s initial inception up to 1916.

 

Early Travel Challenges
  1. Road conditions – roads were all dirt and in inclement weather became a quagmire and often impassable. Even the main streets of town were mud baths and nearly imposable to traverse even by horse.

  2. Nobody travelled very far – most people never travelled more than 50 miles from their birthplace in all their life time.

  3. Modes of travel prior to the introduction of the motor vehicle included:

    • Foot (3 MPH) – the great majority of people walked

    • Horse & Buggy or wagon (3-5 MPH)

    • Bicycles (c. 1880 onwards 10-15 MPH, again hampered by poor roads)

    • Streetcars in developed cities (inter-urban trolleys were widespread by 1905 and low cost)

    • Trains/ships (very expensive)

    • Discuss shortcomings of various modes

      • Expense of horses, horse gets tired, cost of feed, need attention to their hooves and other medical needs.

      • Limited coverage of streetcars in cities,

      • Trains coast to coast stopped only at specific stations, and

      • Ships at ports.

      • Slowness of travel inhibited all but the rich for long distance travel, with days weeks and even months taken to travel abroad

 

“Veteran” Autos c. 1896-1906  (Show models as discussed)

First automobile was invented in Germany simultaneously by Carl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler in 1886. Duryea and Haynes both invented motor vehicles in the USA in 1893 and 1894 respectively, however the 1st US auto manufacturer was Duryea in 1896, producing 13 identical vehicles.

  • Most early vehicles were very low powered (2-10 HP), 1 or 2 cylinder, and only capable of 10-20 Miles per hour – however this was still considerably faster than a horse

  • Many were converted carriages – “Horseless Carriage” - with proprietary motors installed and transmissions made to individual design by blacksmiths or backyard engineers.

  • All were manually started generally by the use of a crank handle

  • Motor vehicles produced between 1886 – 1904 are generally referred to as Edwardian (name after Price Edward of England)

  • Vehicles between 1904 and 1918 are called Veteran vehicles.

  • All vehicles 1886 – 1916 are considered “Brass Era” or Horseless Carriages.

  • Lights, horns, a convertible top, speedometers etc were all accessories, normally sold by the agent selling the vehicle and were not part of the initial advertised vehicle purchase.

  • Lights were generally powered by kerosine (with a wick) or acetylene gas either purchased in  a Prestolite cylinder and mounted on the car or produced in a canister “acetylene generator” on the side of the vehicle by dripping water onto calcium carbonate.

 

Modes of Power

Steam was the predominate power source of choice for many manufacturers prior to 1900. Whilst companies like White, Stanley and Locomobile were the leaders, there was indeed 428 manufacturers in 1900 of steam vehicles and steam out sold gasoline vehicles 3:1

a.   The average steam car ran for 20 min – could take as long as 1 hour to steam up and whilst this had significant advancements by the mid teens, it was still a cumbersome process. Although in 1916 Doble made steam in less 3 minutes, by the mid teens gasoline vehicles out sold steam by 1000:1

  1. Steam was fairly-well developed in the early 1900’s, having been used on ships and trains for years, it was somewhat of a natural progression to power vehicles by steam.

  2. Steam vehicles were, however, expensive, complicated and perceived as dangerous for the average motorist.

Electric Vehicles

Electric vehicles are not a new phenomena - again at the turn of the century there were 299 manufacturers of electric vehicles - Baker, Detroit, Columbia, Rauch & Lang were just a few of the market leaders. The benefits of electric vehicles were:

  • Immediate running

  • Clean

  • Easy to drive

However the drawbacks were a limited range & speed. Similar to today, the electric vehicle was limited to city use because of the range the batteries provided and the need to be able to recharge the vehicle which normally happened at the family home with a specifically designed “recharge unit”.

 

Diesel Fuel

Diesel fuel powered motors were invented in the 1890’s by Benz and were generally referred to as the Otto Cycle by Benz. Whilst having the advantage of not needing a “spark system” (such as a spark plug and coil), manufacturing and metallurgical difficulties meant that placing these motor of power in an automobile had many complications that were not to be well sorted until till the late teens and into the 1920’s.

 

Gasoline & Petrol

Gasoline (petrol) powered motors, as mentioned, took a number of years to become the primary mode of power for the automobile. However by 1910 there were, in the USA alone, 4000 automobile manufacturers with 99% of them utilizing gasoline as the fuel for power. Companies like Duryea, Ford, Cadillac, Buick, Maxwell, Oldsmobile, Mitchell, Franklin, Carter, REO were just a few of the best sellers in the USA. Gasoline had a number of advantages over steam, electricity and diesel including:

  • Immediate starting and running

  • 100 miles on a tank of gas

However they also had their shortcomings:

  • Perceived as dirty and smelly

  • Starting the motor on the crank was a difficult task and potentially dangerous if the timing on the motor was not set correctly. Indeed people died from injuries caused by “back firing” of the motor and the crank handle hitting the operator at speed.

  • Potentially dangerous to drive, especially to start with a volatile fuel

  • Gasoline was only available in small quantities usually sold by drug stores by the can or bottle. If you were planning a trip often you would need to pre order gasoline in advance as there were no petrol stations.

All automobiles were expensive and generally playthings for the rich and famous and it was not until the introduction of the Model T Ford in 1909 that anyone on an average wage could afford a motor vehicle.

 

II. The Automobile Comes of Age 1907-1915
  • By 1905 automobile were seeing some high-end production vehicles of 50-60 horsepower capable of 60 plus mile per hour, however the average vehicle ranged from 18-30 hp with average speeds of 20-40 miles per hour. Most vehicles were 1 & 2 cylinder with the more powerful 4 and even 6 cylinder becoming available.

  • By 1907 automobiles had begun to improve – engines design, while varied in engineering, were considerably advanced over the pre 1904 vehicles. Brakes had improved, advancements in transmission were many and varied and 3 and 4 speed transmissions were quite common. The 1st treaded tire the “Non Skid” had been invented and were now gaining popularity (previously they had been “bald’ or smooth, with no treat at all.

  • Roads improved, this included the advent of table drains on the side of road to provide run off and prevent damage that had previously be created by heavy rain. Bridge design improved to facilitate automobiles and horses alike.

  • Speed goes up - with all these improvements in automobile design, the ability to transverse greater distances and at higher speed meant that people could reasonably travel greater distances and return in a reasonable period of time. Travelling 50 miles from home was no longer an obstacle for a large portion of the populace.

  • Fuel distribution systems were now becoming more common so the need to pre order gasoline from a drug store was not as necessary.

  • 1912 saw the 1st mass produced vehicle with an electric starter, which removed the need to crank, allowing those people who hadn’t been strong enough to crank previously, to now consider owning and driving a vehicle. Whilst first introduced on the 1912 Cadillac, many industry participants followed suit and by 1915 most vehicles were fitted with some sort of electric starter.

  • The advent of electric starting and electric generators built on to the motor also provided for the 1st reliable electric lights, which were much brighter, more reliable and safer than kerosene or acetylene

 

III. Automobiles for the Common Man

Through the 1900 – 1905 period, some manufacturers like Oldsmobile aimed their product at a middle class hoping to sell more vehicles, this was possible by the invention of the 1st production line process of building vehicles, meaning efficiency of production and a lessening of production costs. However, it was not until Ford improved upon the production line process to provide mass production vehicles and reducing cost dramatically, which allow Ford to pitch the T Model at all workers and placing America and the rest of the world “On Wheels”.

 

“Economy of scale” production - many, many automobile manufacturers followed Ford’s production method, not all aiming at the working man but at all levels of society. These processes made many millionaires out of auto manufacture, however it did have its pitfalls and more manufacturers fell by the way side than survived.

 

Economic and Social changes

By 1910 economies world wide were on the improve and would remain that way until the first major stock market crash of century (1920-21). This saw a rise in industry, employment, wages and living conditions. All this led to the financial ability of the “common man” to obtain an automobile, meaning that greater travel was available, families could live further from their place of employment, and family vacations were available with the advent of holiday leave. Most automobile manufacturers had embraced the production line method of manufacturers meaning not only Ford but other makes were affordable. There is no doubt that the “top end of town” consumers were also after the finest vehicles they could have and this came with a pretty price tag, however the middle class was growing and more people would have the ability to afford not just a basic vehicle but something a little higher end with more features and power. The development of this economic platform created an environment that allowed a full range of vehicles to be produced, one for every market and price range.

 

This growth of the automobile also had the effect of expanding cities and towns as well as creating a demand on government to create better infrastructure, such as roads and by 1917 a highway from coast to coast in the USA the Lincon Highway was established. The advent of Nationals Park and other leisure opportunities created a social environment of the travelling vacation, something that, for the average person, was unheard of prior to 1910.

bottom of page