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Model of a “Duryea Motor Wagon”


The first American automobile (1893-94), made by Frank and Charles Duryea.
They were originally known as the “bicycle brothers”.

This wood model with a metal chassis and rubber tires has a canvas roof and is highlighted with some paint decoration which dates to around 1920.
Excellent over-all condition.

By the early 1890’s, the brothers were headquartered in Springfield, Massachusetts and became interested in new gasoline engines and self-powered wagons.

Charles E. (1861-1938) and J. Frank Duryea (1869-1967) were born in Canton, Illinois and became known as the “Bicycle Brothers” for making their own bicycles and inventing bicycle improvements at their shop in Washington, D.C. towards the end of the 19th century.

By the early 1890s, they were headquartered in Springfield, Massachusetts and became interested in new gasoline engines and self-powered wagons. The brothers purchased a used horse drawn wagon for $70 and installed their first single cylinder four-horsepower free-piston gasoline engine that Frank built at their shop on 47 Taylor Street. After the buggy was fitted with a friction transmission, low tension ignition and a spray-type carburetor, the brothers, with Charles at the tiller, road tested the first-ever, working American-made gasoline-powered automobile on September 20, 1893.

The first motor vehicle race in America was held in Chicago in 1895 and was sponsored by H. H. Kohlsaat, owner of the Chicago Times-Herald. The contest was being held “with a view of stimulating invention and rousing an interest” in this new form of transportation. It drew 70 entrees. Kohlsaat also offered a $500 prize for anyone who came up with a proper name for this horseless carriage. Thousands of suggestions were sent to the Times-Herald, and the prize was divided among three people who proposed the word “motocycle.”  Kohlsaat began publishing the first auto trade journal, entitled The Motocycle Maker and Dealer, later that same year. The name “motocycle” never caught on with Americans, but eventually the word “automobile” did. In January 1899, the New York Times was the first publication to use the word “automobile” in an editorial, criticizing it as a mixture of Greek and Latin origin.

At 8:55 am on November 28,1895, six motor vehicles left Chicago’s snow-covered Jackson Park for a 54-mile road race to Evanston, Illinois and back. Car Number 5, the second car built by inventor Frank Duryea, won the race in just over 10 hours at an average speed of 7.3 mph, earning the $2,000 prize money. The next day’s Times-Herald reported: “Persons who are inclined to decry the development of the horseless carriage will be forced to recognize it as an admitted mechanical achievement, highly adapted to some of the most urgent needs of our civilization.”

Dimensions: 16 3/4”h, 21 ½”w , 9 ¼”d

Item ID: DA-SO 288

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