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First American Car

Arguably the first American car was built by Oliver Evans in 1805. He had received the first U. S. patent in 1789. The car that Evans built was amphibious and could travel on land by wheels or water by paddlewheels.

First American Car

Other scholars say that the first American car is generally considered to be the Duryea automobile built by the Duryea Motor Wagon Company which was first demonstrated in Massachusetts in 1893 (pictured above). Frank and Charles Duryea founded the company and built a Ladies Phaeton one-cylinder gasoline engine, 4-wheel, open air car.

A second Duryea was built in 1894 and on Thanksgiving Day in 1895, Frank won the Chicago Times Herald Race traveling 54 miles with an average speed of 7.5 mph. In 1895, the Duryea Motor Wagon Company started commercial production of the first American car.

Frank Duryea was the actual builder of the first American automobile, having to throw away many of Charles' ideas. Charles, however, spent his life trying to discredit Frank and claim himself to be the builder of the first American car.

By 1902, the Oldsmobile (Olds Motor Vehicle Company formed in 1897 in Detroit, Michigan) would come to dominate the marketplace with its large scale production line busy at work churning out 425 cars the first year for $650 apiece.

The Henry Ford Company launched in 1901 and would change its name to Cadillac Motor Company. In 1909 General Motors would buy the Cadillac company. William Durant had formed General Motors in 1908. In 1902 - 1903 the Ford Motor Company launched in a converted factory and built its first American car, the Model A.

In 1908, the Ford Motor Company launched the Model T and in first year production sold over 10,000 cars. In 1912, the Charles Kettering electric starter was introduced (before that cars had to startup using a hand crank).

In 1913, the Ford Motor Company developed the assembly line with each worker responsible for one task. Up until this time, workers were assigned multiple tasks on building automobiles and walked around the plants to accomplish their tasks.

Under this assembly line process, the Highland Park, Michigan plant produced 300,000 cars in 1914. This allowed Ford to drop the price of the Model T for 14 years straight making this American car now affordable to the middle class.

Many years ago, in children's schoolbooks, Henry Ford was given credit for inventing the automobile. This was far from the truth. What Henry Ford did invent was the assembly line for mass producing the automobile making it affordable to Americans everywhere.