Buffalo Bill Cody at the tiller of a 1904 Michigan

It was a time of incredible transition. In the Arizona territory Geronimo was being pursued by the United States Army. Meanwhile in Michigan, Ransom E. Olds was tinkering with contraptions that would soon contribute to one greatest societal changes in world history. A few years later, in 1892, he detailed a few of his endeavors, and his vision for the future, in an an interview published in Scientific American. He was quoted as saying about the automobile that, “…it never kicks or bite, never tires on long runs, and never sweats in hot weather. It does not require care in the stable and only eats while on the road.”

Peerless, a company that would rise to prominence as one of the nations leading manufacturers of luxury automobiles during the teens had its origins in the production of clothes wringers. With the explosion of bicycle popularity in the last decade of the 19th century, the company diversified production to include the two-wheelers for which America had developed an insatiable appetite.

Pierce-Arrow, another leader in the manufacture of American luxury cars during the teens, had as a cornerstone Heintz, Pierce & Munschauer, a manufacturer of iceboxes, birdcages, and other assorted household goods. As with Peerless, the manufacture of bicycles served as the interim step toward automobile production, and by the teens Pierce-Arrow challenged Rolls Royce for international dominance of the luxury automobile market.

Herbert and Eugene Adams were a leading manufacturer of park benches and grave markers in Iowa during the 1880s. Diversification came with the manufacture of milling and foundry equipment. Their foray into automobile production was resultant of experiments in the development of internal combustion engines by company superintendent Fay Oliver Farwell. Promoted as the car with an engine that “spins like a top,” the Adams-Farwell of 1905 featured a rotary engine with cylinders and crankcase revolving horizontally on a fixed shaft! Sales, as may be expected, were anemic.

In the summer of 1906, with $22,000 in capital stock, George M. Harton, W.F. Heninger, T.M. Harton, and C. MacKalip, incorporated the Amusement Company in Delaware. The sales pitch was that the company would manufacture, “nickelodeons, carousels, automobiles, and other amusements.” Apparently, the companies’ primary sales were of stock. Even gullible investors eager to get in on the ground floor of the next big thing had their limitations. A.B. Andrews of Center Point Iowa, in 1895, unsuccessfully sought investors for the development and manufacture of his Andrews Spring Motor Car, an automobile based on a spring-powered baby carriage designed a few years previously.
“The device is attached under the hind axle, one piece on each side. At each end are two main driving shafts, which mesh with cogwheels. The springs are wound with levers. By throwing on the winding gear the mechanism will wind itself up while going down hill…”

To read more about this exciting chapter in American automotive history, check out the exclusive content postings on our crowdfunding site.

If you enjoy Jim Hinckley\'s America, take a second to support jimhinckleysamerica on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!