Search Results for: Stanley Steam Car
In the early years of the automobile, the hill climb was one of the most popular ways of proving a cars abilities and many manufacturers participated in them. The famous Dead Horse Hill Climb was held between the years of 1905 and 1911, in Leicester just west of Worcester, Massachusetts and was one of the most challenging of its type. The course rose three-hundred and twenty-five feet over a distance of only one mile.
The Stanley Steam Car built in Newton, only 38 miles east of Worcester was a perennial favorite; Leon F.N. Baldwin set the all-time record in the 1909 running of the event at fifty-four seconds behind the wheel of one. Baldwin’s car was one of two built for the 1906 Vanderbilt Cup Race, the cars did not take part in that contest but were used in other event later on. In the gasoline-powered free-for-all, Harry Grant in a big six-cylinder Alco covered the hill in one minute and 3 and 4-5th seconds.
Racing in the early days involved sponsorships, although the dollar figures involved with them were a small percentage of what is common today. The White & Bagley Company, also located in Worcester, refined what they called the Highest Grade Motor Lubricant on Earth, and was a sponsor of early racing participants in both hill climbs and on the track.
Baldwin in his Stanley, seen at the top of the post is pictured on an Oilzum advertising postcard courtesy of steamcar.net. Below is another well-known racer of the day, Hughie Hughes that Oilzum also sponsored, in his Allen-Kingston; he took two class wins and finished second to Grant in the larger Alco in the free-for-all.
Full results of the climb were found in the July, 1909 Automotive Trade Journal, and can be seen in the left hand photo above. The center and right hand photos from the Automobile, July 15, 1909 issue, tell of a plan to build a new course for the Hill Climb with a five-hundred foot rise in a mile that would run two cars at a time. We are uncertain if this came to pass for the last two years of the event. More coverage of early hill climbs here and steam-power here.
- Newton, Massachusetts Fire Department Chief Walter Randlett and fireman William V. Fogwell in a 1903 Stanley Solid Seat Runabout
By the time our photo was taken, the Stanley brothers had been in the business of building steam cars for six years. First under their own name and then licensed to Locomobile, their designs proved so thoroughly reliable that they soon became very popular with fire and police departments. Fire departments were very well acquainted with steam equipment operating practices having used steam pumpers since the mid-19th century. We suspect that the location of the Stanley factory right in Newton also made Chief Randlett’s choice of vehicles an easy one.
Their acceleration was swift and the direct gearing of the 8 HP engine to the axle as seen in our bottom photo eliminated the possibility of any clutch and transmission problems. The article above from the Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal describes the favorable power to weight ratio and reasonable price of these early Stanley models that contributed to their success and the ingenious boiler design that all but eliminated the likelihood of explosion.
Locomobile would abandon steam car production in 1903. Stanley continued on and prospered in following years until Delco’s introduction of the electric starter in 1912 eliminated a major drawback of “internal explosion cars” as Stanley called them, after which interest in steamers began to decline. You’ll find many more posts about Stanleys and other steam cars previously on The Old Motor and some interesting Newton Fire Department history here. Photo courtesy of Historic Newton.
*Updated* Kelley Williams found the ad (below) that was placed in the Dec. 20, 1899, The Horseless Age, where Martin Gillet Gill, Jr. had advertised his first car for sale so that he could most likley buy this one.
By Kelly Williams:
This photo from a Baltimore newspaper archive is simply marked “Mrs. M. Gillet Gill.” It shows a Stanley stick-seat runabout on the early 70″ wheelbase chassis, probably built in 1901 or 1902.
Martin Gillet Gill, Jr. (whose family was in the tea importing business for generations) was one of the first to place an order for a Stanley following the attention-getting performance of one of the Stanley brothers’ prototypes at the Nov. 1898, Charles River Park exhibition. His order became delayed by the sale of the nascent manufacturing business to the Locomobile concern. An anecdote relates that when he complained that he might be dead before the car was delivered, the brothers replied “Don’t worry, we’ll upholster your car in asbestos!”
He is recorded as having the first car in Baltimore, and it was a steam car. If he indeed got one of the earliest possible cars after the business’s sale to Locomobile, it was probably a Stanley/Locomobile built during the brothers’ hiatus from manufacturing, and not this car. However, his brother, race driver and aviator Howard Gill, established an automobile dealership which sold Stanley’s, and this car presumably arrived in Baltimore that way. In fact, it may have been one of the Stanleys’ first production cars under their name, with the improved direct-drive engine retrofitted in place of the early chain-drive.
Editors note: Kelly Williams is the keeper of the Stanley Register Online which serves as the registry for the Stanley Steam Car community. The site has photos of many Stanley’s along with links to other steam car and gas power club websites. The Old Motor photo.