Winton Motor Carriage Company of Cleveland, Ohio followed in March
1897 and the Olds Motor Vehicle Company of Lansing, Michigan in
August of the same year. It would take several years for both
companies though to build a significant number of gasoline powered
important, from an industrial standpoint, was the organization of
the Electric Vehicle Company in Hartford, Connecticut which involved
bicycle tycoon Albert A. Pope and a manufacturer of electric storage
batteries : Isaac L. Rice. Within two years this company produced
500 electric and 40 gasoline carriages under the "Columbia" brand,
essentially used as taxicabs in New York and other cities.
a winter blizzard in New York City, all traffic was halted except
Isaac Rice's electric carriages, which managed to operate on the
sidewalks. This attracted the interest of street-railway magnate
William Collins Whitney, who promptly acquired the business, added
the motor carriage department of the Pope Manufacturing Company and
recapitalized it all at $3'000'000.
an important sideline deal, the traction group also acquired the
rights to a patent, granted in November 1895 to George B. Selden of
Rochester NY, for his design of a gasoline powered automobile. With
its huge capitalization (brought to $20 million by 1902) and the
rights attached to the Selden Patent, the Electric Vehicle Company
was geared to become the dominant factor in the nascent American
it came otherwise and how the American automotive industry escaped
control by the oligarchy of Eastern capitalists, to the benefit of
the Midwest and more specifically Detroit, is essentially the story
of two men, who rose to become America's leading automobile tycoons.
Over a period of 25 years (1895-1920), considered the formative
stage of the American automotive industry, many if not most of its
pioneering businessmen orbited with their activities, in a way or
another, around these two leaders : Henry Ford and William Crapo
two, in physical appearance, character and background so different
men shared a vision for the future of the automobile, a hang to
grass-roots popularity and apprehension towards Eastern bankers and
capitalists. Henry Ford was tall, thin and austere, while Billy
Durant was undersized, jovial and charming. Ford's parents were
simple although not poor farmers, whose forbears had immigrated to
Michigan from Ireland, whereas Billy Durant's grandfather, Henry
Howland Crapo, was an established merchant and realtor in New
Bedford, who moved to Michigan to manage his investments and rose to
be governor of the state.
Ford was an engineer, the archetype of automotive pioneer, who
tinkered on his Quadricycle in a backyard workshop of his house.
Durant was a salesman, persuader and to some extent organizer, who
cared little for technical details and much for people : customers,
business partners and the general public. Both men liked the
spotlight and popularity, fame and fortune brought them; the
introverted Henry Ford using it to convey his ideas, while the
extroverted Billy Durant simply made friends.
Automobile & Aviation