History of the Stanley Steamer Steam Powered Car Part 2

About the Stanley steam powered automobile, history of their invention, its popularity and eventual decline.

BIOGRAPHIES OF WONDERFUL AND TERRIBLE AUTOMOBILES

THE STANLEY STEAMER (1897-1925)

Meanwhile, they were setting speed records. In 1906, a Stanley reached a then incredible 127.66 mph, the first machine ever to exceed 2 mi. per minute. A year later, a Stanley racer driven by Fred Marriott is said to have traveled somewhere between 150 and 197 mph (stories conflict) before hitting a bump, flying through the air, breaking into pieces, and nearly killing the driver. At that point the twins gave up racing.

F.E. and F.O. were content, but competitors were not. One competitor, playing on deliberately misguided fears, said, "You can't get people to sit over an explosion." Even though built-in safety factors prevented the boilers from exploding, the possibility of trouble had its effect. Others pointed out that steam boilers required fresh water too often, took up to 25 minutes to build up steam, and were dangerous because a pilot light, as in a gas stove, was necessary. Steamers were not permitted on ferryboats unless the driver first extinguished his burner.

The Stanleys made little effort to counteract the objections. While they were making only infrequent minor changes in their cars, the internal-combustion advocates were busily improving style and performance in theirs. Charles Kettering's perfection of the electric self-starter in 1911 was the beginning of the end for the steamers. When Henry Ford, an internal-combustion proponent from the beginning, put together the first large assembly line and produced the first inexpensive car, the bell had tolled. Steam suddenly had become old-fashioned and expensive.

Ironically, some of the earlier disadvantages of steam had already begun to be ironed out. The use of condensers, to trap escaping steam and reconvert it to water in the boiler, made constant refilling unnecessary. The "flash boiler" made it possible to use only the amount of steam needed at a given time. An electric starting device, to replace the pilot light, enabled steamers to run in less than two minutes, in summer or winter. The annoying problems associated with steam propulsion were more or less under control.

But it was too late. Companies like White and Locomobile--and over 100 others--gave up on steam as a power source. The Stanleys' company, which had been sold in 1917, was one of very few still making steamers. In 1925 they decided to give up. Ford had conquered.

What was lost? Mainly, an ingenious and clean power source. It is possible to say that today's automobiles might be running on steam if someone as brilliant as Ford had favored it. There have been attempts since F.E. and F.O.'s time to construct viable steamers. But automotive history, built on billions of dollars and millions of hours, has relegated the steamers to museums. Maybe the Stanley Steamer should be the car of the future, rather than the car of the past.

You Are Here: Trivia-Library Home » History of Famous Automobiles and Cars » History of the Stanley Steamer Steam Powered Car Part 2
« History of the Stanley Steamer Steam Powered Car Part 1History of the Rolls-Royce Automobile Part 1 »
DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ - By printing, downloading, or using you agree to our full terms. Review the full terms at the following URL: /disclaimer.htm