Michigan: A History of the Great Lakes State

By Bruce A. Rubenstein; Lawrence E. Ziewacz | Go to book overview

Chapter 13

The World of Wheels

GASOLINE-POWERED INTERNAL COMBUSTION MOTORcars, or “road wagons,” had been developed in Belgium and Germany as early as 1860, but they were thought of primarily as mere toys and not as possible replacements for horsedrawn carriages. Americans shared this view and even after Charles and Frank Duryea, of Massachusetts, established the nation's first automobile company in 1893 the general public remained unconvinced that “horseless buggies” were more than dangerous, expensive playthings for the idle rich. This belief was put in verse on an anti-automobile postcard near the turn of the twentieth century:

He owned a handsome touring car, to ride in it was Heaven
He ran across a piece of glass the bill, $14.97.
He started on a little tour, the finest sort of fun,
He stopped too quick and stripped the gears the bill, $99.41.
He took his wife down to shop, to save the horses was great,
He crashed into a grocery store the bill, $444.88.
He spent his pile of cash, and then in anguish cried,
I'll put a mortgage on the house, and have just one more ride.

It was not until Ransom E. Olds, of Lansing, entered the scene that automobiles became popular in the mass market.


Olds' “'Mobile”

In 1886, at the age of twenty-two, Olds developed a steam-powered automobile, but he quickly turned his attention to perfecting a gasoline powersource because he believed that the inevitable boiler problems would

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