The automobile has long been a part of the American culture. We rely on it on a personal level for activities such as going from home to work, the store or other locations but also on a less personal level (though of equal importance) to get products delivered to stores and business of every type. For many of us, it is something easily taken for granted- in fact, statistics show that the average American household has at least 3 vehicles-yet the automobile has only been around a bit over a century.
People all around the world have benefited from the automobile. And perhaps, some might wonder, did the early inventors of the automobile ever dream that what they did would have such widespread influence. And, in addition, who exactly invented the automobile?
For many, it may come as surprise that it was not Henry Ford who first invented the automobile. Rather, the automobile can trace its roots back to as early as 1769 when Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot of France introduced the first self- propelled road vehicle. The vehicle was a three-wheeled tractor-like carriage which was used by the military; it could travel at a speed of 2.5 miles per hour. However, it should be noted that there is some disagreement that this vehicle actually worked.
During the late 1700s to the late 1800s there were many other “vehicles” introduced. These include automobiles from inventors like G. W. Daimler, Robert Anderson and George B. Selden. But it was not until the mid 1880s that Karl Friedrich Benz introduced what is thought to be the first real automobile. The automobile designed by Benz was a gasoline powered motor carriage with a 4 stroke engine. It was a 3 wheeled vehicle with an electric ignition, differential gears and water cooling system. It was first driven in Mannheim, Germany in 1885, and he was granted a patent for his invention in January of 1886. By July of that same year, Benz & Company began selling the automobile to the public and by 1893, the Benz Velo became the world’s first inexpensive, mass produced car. It is suggested by many, that Benz is the first true automobile inventor.
On the other side of the Great Pond, the Duryea brothers, Charles and Frank, were also hard at work to develop an automobile. In 1893, they designed the first successful gas powered car. It used a 2 stroke motor and could travel 4 miles per hour. They are also credited with setting up the first American car manufacturing company. Of special interest, Frank Duryea was the winner of America’s first auto race in 1895. It involved 6 cars traveling 54 miles from Chicago to Evanston and back again. Duryea won the race in just over 10 hours with an average speed of 7.3 mph.