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*Update* A Very Early Steamer in Competition?

This photo like many early photos, tended to get labeled incorrectly back in their day and we believe this is one of them. Many thanks to reader John Kelm, who sent us this photo, one of a number of great early glass-plate negatives he obtained that we will be sharing with you in the future.

This was labeled as a curved dash Olds, but based on the looks of its axles, springs and perch poles, we believe that it maybe an early Stanley, or possibly an early Locomobile built after the Stanley brothers had sold the company. What is interesting, is the large tank on the top of the dash, that maybe an extra water tank, possibly used for competition?

The car appears to have been in some type of competitive event, and this may possibly be the braking test part of it, judging by the marks laid out across the road and the two men who seem to be taking a measurement. The other clue leading us to think this, is the crowd on the left all seem to be looking down the road possibly waiting for the next car?

We are confidant that some of our readers who are steam car experts, will be able to tell us all about the car, the scene and maybe even the driver. But if not, we would like to hear from anyone who has information about this photo, to help John Kelm to ID this wonderful glass plate negative.

*UPDATE*  Kelly Williams has found that it indeed is a Locomobile:  It WAS an endurance trial!  I can hardly believe the coincidence, but I was paging through the June 1902 Cosmopolitan on Google books and found the attached.


Which led to this text from Victor Hugo’s “The Overland Monthly”,
July-December 1902, page 14

The next endurance contest held in the United States was under the auspices of the Long Island Automobile Club, and was held on Long Island April 26, 1902. The contest was only one hundred miles, there being three classes of vehicles were provided for.

The text is garbled in the scan of “Story of the Automobile…” but it indicates that the Locomobile Co.’s entry covered the 100 miles in 7 hrs 7 min – almost dead last.  Fastest car was also a steamer at 6 hrs 14 min, though there was apparently a minimum time and maximum speed for the run which disqualified several cars.

New York Times for April 27th said “The hill-climbing contest at Roslyn had about twelve entries. Awards were made for the different classes. The best time of all was made by a steam vehicle in 1 minute 42 seconds.”

10 responses to “*Update* A Very Early Steamer in Competition?

  1. There is a possibility that this is a Steamobile – an American steamer made in Keene, New Hampshire from 1900-1902. This is based on the curved front and shadow of what looks like a centrally mounted engine with chain drive to the rear. The chassis is a little different from the one example I have seen, notably in the shape of the front suspension tie and the straightness of the rods, but surviving ones may well have been rebuilt with slight differences.

  2. The chassis and most of the body look very much like Locomobile, althought the seat is paneled rather than spindled. Interestingly, the tank appears to be built to take pressure; it’s pretty reminiscent of the pressurized pilot fuel tank from a 1920’s Stanley, although longer. A water tank would probably just be soldered sheet metal. Was another part of the trials some kind of endurance run that called for a lot of fuel onboard? Counter to this theory is the fact that a non-condensing steamer uses a lot more water than fuel. Maybe it’s just something they had on hand that could add water capacity without needing much supporting structure.

    Don’t think I’d want to use a pressurized tank of gasoline for my front bumper…

    • Kelly,thanks for your input, I think you maybe be right. I was able to spend so time today researching it and came to the conclusion that it is either a Loco or Stanley.

      Hopefully someone may come forward with more info? It would also be nice if we could find out what the event was.

  3. Likely photo of John Brisbane Walker in a 1899-1900 Mobile steam car, manufactured in Terrytown NY, the first really mass-produced automobile.
    The straight side seats reflect this. The tank on the front is likely an extra fuel tank, gasolene is pre-pressurized to 50 psi by pump before driving off and stored at pressure to feed the vaporizer coil and burner.

  4. That could be. The only picture of a Mobile runabout I’ve seen with a paneled seat showed a concave vertical curve to the panel rather than the convex visible here. The 1903 Mobile catalog still showed a stick-seat runabout. I confess to finding it difficult to distinguish it from the earliest Locos.

    This car, though, has a paneled seat and upholstery pattern that matches the 1900 Locomobile catalog, and it appears to have the slim metal grab handle at the forward edge of the passenger side of the seat, as shown on the Style 02 Loco in that catalog.

    The Mobile catalog also lists a 9-passenger limo, a couple of vans and and a startling 14-passenger bus, complete with clerestory – all still riding on those little wire wheels.

  5. Comment relayed from the owner of aa 1899 Locomobile:
    I don’t think that this is a Stanley. It could be a Locomobile but I have not been able to find any pictures of a body or seat like this.

    The fuel tank on the dash is similar to the original tank on my Locomobile. Except that it is too long. The tank is usually mounted under the floor boards between the frame. It must be short enough to clear brace rods when the car bounces. Perhaps that is why it is mounted on the dash!

  6. Comment relayed from the owner of a 1907 Stanley:
    The chassis is certainly Locomobile along with the controls, as to the extra large pressure tank, these cars put air pressure in the fuel tank, so maybe it’s a long distance attachment , water is located anywhere not so gasoline. The body is a little different than most spindle back Stanhopes, that Locomobile used, though there was some solid back models, not sure if they were Stanley or Loco, Stanley started building sold to Locomobile then got them back again.

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