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1905 Jackson Model C

A Royal Tourist model US Army vehicle, circa 1906. The vehicle was the conveyance of General Frederick Funston (leftmost figure in the back seat).

A 1911 K-R-I-T Advertisement

A Stanley steamer racecar in 1903; in 1906 a similar Stanley rocket set the world land speed record at 205.5km/h (127.6 mi/h) at Daytona Beach Road Course.

The automotive Brass Era is the first period of automotive manufacturing, named for the prominent brass fittings used during this time for such things as lights and radiators. It extends from the first commercial automobiles (first known as motocycles) marketed in the 1890s until about World War I. The term "Brass Era automobile" is a retronym for "horseless carriage," the original name for such vehicles, which is still in use today. The Brass Era closely followed the Veteran Era.

Within the 15 years that make up this era, the various experimental designs and alternate power systems would be marginalised. Although the modern touring car had been invented earlier, it was not until Panhard et Levassor's Système Panhard was widely licensed and adopted that recognisable and standardised automobiles were created. This system specified front-engined, rear-wheel drive internal combustion engined cars with a sliding gear transmission. Traditional coach-style vehicles were rapidly abandoned, and buckboard runabouts lost favour with the introduction of tonneaus and other less-expensive touring bodies.

By 1906, steam car development had advanced, and they were among the fastest road vehicles in that period.[1]

Throughout this era, development of automotive technology was rapid, due in part to hundreds of small manufacturers competing to gain the world's attention. Key developments included the electric ignition system (by dynamotor on the Arnold in 1898,[2] though Robert Bosch, 1903, tends to get the credit), independent suspension (actually conceived by Bollée in 1873),[2] and four-wheel brakes (by the Arrol-Johnston Company of Scotland in 1909).[3] Leaf springs were widely used for suspension, though many other systems were still in use, with angle steel taking over from armored wood as the frame material of choice. Transmissions and throttle controls were widely adopted, allowing a variety of cruising speeds, though vehicles generally still had discrete speed settings, rather than the infinitely variable system familiar in cars of later eras. Safety glass also made its debut, patented by John Wood in England in 1905.[4] (It would not become standard equipment until 1926, on a Rickenbacker.)[4]

Between 1907 and 1912 in the United States, the high-wheel motor buggy (resembling the horse buggy of before 1900) was in its heyday, with over seventy-five makers including Holsman (Chicago), IHC (Chicago), and Sears (which sold via catalog); the high-wheeler would be killed by the Model T.[5] In 1912, Hupp (in the U.S., supplied by Hale & Irwin) and BSA (in the UK) pioneered the use of all-steel bodies,[6] joined in 1914 by Dodge (who produced Model T bodies).[4] While it would be another two decades before all-steel bodies would be standard, the change would mean improved supplies of superior-quality wood for furniture makers.[7]


Such very old vehicles present challenges to today's collectors. Replacement parts must nearly always be handmade, and documentation such as wiring diagrams and specification sheets are often nonexistent. The huge variety of companies and technologies represented during this period is also a complicating factor—it has been estimated that there were over 1,000 manufacturers in the US alone.

An active collector community exists for these vehicles, which when well-restored can be extremely valuable. The very rare original-condition survivor can be even more so.

The early Ford Model T is an example of a Brass Era car for the mass market, and the early European Hispano-Suiza models are fairly typical of expensive models of the time.

The London-Brighton Veteran Car Rally is the best known gathering for cars of this era when many examples (try to) Frive the route from London to Brighton and then parade on the Front at Brighton.


Frank Leslie's Popular Monthly magazine's list of U.S. automakers as of 1904

In January, 1904, Frank Leslie's Popular Monthly magazine catalogued the entire range of automobiles available to the mass market in the United States. This list included the following manufacturers:

  • American Darracq Automobile Company (New York, New York)
  • Apperson Brothers Automobile Company (Kokomo, Indiana)
  • Auburn Automobile Company (Auburn, Indiana)
  • Autocar Company (Ardmore, Pennsylvania)
  • Automobile Exchange and Storage Company (New York, New York)
  • Baker Motor Vehicle Company (Cleveland, Ohio)
  • Berg Automobile Company (New York, New York)
  • Buffalo Electric Carriage Company (Buffalo, New York)
  • Cadillac Automobile Company (Detroit, Michigan)
  • Central Automobile Company (New York, New York)
  • Clodio and Widmayer (New York, New York)
  • Columbus Motor Vehicle Company (Columbus, Ohio)
  • B. V. Covert and Company (Lockport, New York)
  • Crest Manufacturing Company (Cambridge, Massachusetts)
  • Daimler Manufacturing Company (Long Island City, New York)
  • Duryea Power Company (Reading, Pennsylvania)
  • Electric Vehicle Company (Hartford, Connecticut)
  • Eisenhuth Horseless Vehicle Company (Middletown, Connecticut)
  • Elmore Manufacturing Company (Clyde, Ohio)
  • Ford Motor Company (Detroit, Michigan)
  • Societe Franco-Americaine d'Automobiles (New York, New York)
  • Franklin Automobile Company (Syracuse, New York)
  • Fredonia Manufacturing Company (Youngstown, Ohio)
  • Grout Brothers (Orange, Massachusetts)
  • Haynes-Apperson Company (Kokomo, Indiana)
  • Holley Motor Car Company (Bradford, Pennsylvania)
  • Thos. B. Jeffery Company (Kenosha, Wisconsin)
  • Kirk Manufacturing Company (Toledo, Ohio)
  • Knox Automobile Company (Springfield, Massachusetts)
  • Locomobile Company of America (Bridgeport, Connecticut)
  • National Motor Vehicle Company (Indianapolis, Indiana)
  • National Sewing Machine Company (Belvidere, Illinois)
  • Northern Manufacturing Company (Detroit, Michigan)
  • Olds Motor Works (Detroit, Michigan)
  • Packard Motor Car Company (Detroit, Michigan)
  • Panhard-Levassor (Paris, France)
  • Peerless Motor Car Company (Cleveland, Ohio)
  • Phelps Motor Vehicle Company (Stoneham, Massachusetts)
  • George N. Pierce Company (Buffalo, New York)
  • Pope-Robinson Company (Hyde Park, Massachusetts)
  • Pope-Toledo Company (Toledo, Ohio)
  • Pope-Waverly Company (Indianapolis, Indiana)
  • Premier Motor Manufacturing Company (Indianapolis, Indiana)
  • Renault (New York, New York)
  • Rochet-Schneider (New York, New York)
  • Royal Motor Car Company (Cleveland, Ohio)
  • Sandusky Automobile Company (Sandusky, Ohio)
  • K. A. Skinner (Boston, Massachusetts)
  • Smith and Mabley (New York, New York)
  • St. Louis Motor Carriage Company (St. Louis, Missouri)
  • Standard Automobile Company of New York (New York, New York)
  • Stanley Motor Carriage Company (Newton, Massachusetts)
  • F. B. Stearns Company (Cleveland, Ohio)
  • J. Stevens Arms and Tool Company (Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts)
  • Studebaker Brothers Company (South Bend, Indiana)
  • E. R. Thomas Motor Company (Buffalo, New York)
  • Waltham Manufacturing Company (Waltham, Massachusetts)
  • White Sewing Machine Company (Cleveland, Ohio)
  • Wilson Automobile Manufacturing Company (Wilson, New York)
  • Winton Motor Carriage Company (Cleveland, Ohio)
  • Woods Motor Vehicle Company (Chicago, Illinois)

Fred H. Colvin's list of U.S. automakers as of 1917

Fred H. Colvin, who covered the American automotive industry for many years as a journalist and editor of trade journals, wrote in his memoir (1947) about his experiences:[8]

"[…] I have already indicated how the early 'craze' for horseless carriages caused automobile plants to spring up like mushroom growths all over the country, just as hundreds of locomotive plants had sprung up in the early days of railroading. In both instances, however, the great majority faded out of the picture once the industry had become firmly established. As late as 1917 there were 127 different makes of American automobiles on the market, as compared with little more than a dozen in 1947 [i.e., at the time of this writing]. For the sake of the completeness of the present record, and in order to aid future scholars and research workers, I should like to give the list of American automobiles current thirty years ago [i.e., 1917]:[ ¶ ]
"Abbott-Detroit, Allen, American-Six, Anderson, Apperson, Arbenz, Auburn, Austin, Bell, Biddle, Brewster, Bour-Davis, Briscoe, Buick, Cadillac, Cameron, Case, Chalmers, Chandler, Chevrolet, Cole, Crow-Elkhart, Daniels, Davis, Detroiter, Dispatch, Dixie Flyer, Doble, Dodge, Dorris, Dort, Drexel, Elcar, Elgin, Emerson, Empire, Enger, Fiat, Ford, Fostoria, Franklin, F.R.P., Glide, Grant, Hackett, H.A.L., Halladay, Harroun, Harvard, Haynes, Hollier, Hudson, Hupmobile, Inter-State, Jackson, Jeffery, Jordan, King, Kissel, Kline, Laurel, Lenox, Lexington, Liberty, Locomobile, Lozier, Luverne, Madison, Maibohm, Majestic, Marion-Handley, Marmon, Maxwell, McFarlan, Mecca, Mercer, Metz, Mitchell, Moline-Knight, Monarch, Monitor, Monroe, Moon, Morse, Murray, National, Nelson, Oakland, Oldsmobile, Owen, Packard, Paige, Partin-Palmer, Paterson, Pathfinder, Peerless, Pierce-Arrow, Pilot, Premier, Princess, Pullman, Regal, Republic, Reo, Richmond, Roamer, Ross, Saxon, Scripps-Booth, Spaulding, Simplex, Singer, Standard, Stanley Steamer, Stearns-Knight, Stephens, Stewart, Studebaker, Stutz, Sun, Velie, Westcott, White, Willys-Knight, Winton, and Yale.[ ¶ ]
"A great many more names, including Brush, Duryea, Alco, Speedwell, and Waverly, had already disappeared from the scene by 1917."

Other makes not mentioned above

  • Adams (Bedford, England, 1905–1914)
  • Alter (Plymouth, Michigan)
  • Austro (Austria, 1913–1914)
  • Colburn (Denver, Colorado)
  • Duesenberg (Auburn, Indiana)
  • K-R-I-T Motor Car Company (Detroit, Michigan)
  • Lambert (Anderson, Indiana)
  • Maritime Six (St John, New Brunswick)
  • McLaughlin (Oshawa, Ontario)
  • Model (Peru, Indiana)
  • Stoddard-Dayton (Dayton, Ohio)
  • Tincher (Chicago, Illinois)
  • Union (Union City, Indiana)

See also


  1. "Stanley steamers amongst fastest road vehicles around 1906-1911". Retrieved on 2010-12-05.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Csere 1988, p. 61.
  3. Georgano 1985, p. 27.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Csere 1988, p. 62.
  5. Georgano 1985, p. 65
  6. Csere 1988, p. 63.
  7. Georgano 1985.
  8. Colvin 1947, pp. 124–125.


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External links

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