Today in Transportation History – 1897: A Pioneering Car Company is Born

The trailblazing automobile manufacturer Winton Motor Carriage Company officially began operations in Cleveland. Scottish immigrant and marine engineer Alexander Winton, who previously produced bicycles, founded the company with George H. Brown and Thomas W. Henderson.

The Winton Motor Carriage Company’s earliest automobiles were built entirely by hand. Each of these vehicles featured gas lamps, painted sides, padded seats, and a leather roof. The tires were made by B.F. Goodrich.

Less than five months after the Winton Motor Carriage Company was launched, Alexander Winton – accompanied by the company’s shop superintendent William A. Hatcher — drove one of the automobiles from Cleveland to New York City. This trek of approximately 800 miles (1287.5 kilometers) set a record for that time as the longest-distance automobile tour and reliability run in the United States. This ambitious road trip helped attract more investors for the Winton Motor Carriage Company and additional orders for its automobiles. By 1899, the company had become the largest manufacturer of gasoline-powered vehicles in the U.S.

The Winton Motor Carriage Company also established, or at least significantly contributed to, several other notable records. The earliest known franchised car dealership, for example, sold Winton automobiles starting in 1898. The Winton Motor Carriage Company created a semi-truck to deliver vehicles to that dealership in Reading, Pennsylvania; this semi-truck became the first automobile hauler in the U.S.

Another milestone involving the company took place in 1903, when Dr. Horatio Nelson Jackson and Sewall K. Crocker drove a slightly used two-cylinder Winton touring car from San Francisco to New York City to complete the first automobile trip across the U.S. This pioneering vehicle, which was nicknamed the Vermont, is now housed in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History.

The Winton Motor Carriage Company was reorganized as the Winton Motor Car Company in 1915. Over the next several years, the company found itself unable to continue competing effectively with the Ford Motor Company and other manufacturers mass-producing less expensive automobiles. The Winton Motor Car Company ceased automobile production altogether in 1924.

For more information on the Winton Motor Carriage Company, please check out https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/267

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