Automobile Milestones – The Brass Era

A Stanley Steamer race car in 1903.

In 1906, a similar Stanley Rocket set the world land speed record at 205.5 km/h (127.6 mi/h) at Daytona Beach Road Course.

There was a period of automobile manufacturing in that was called the Brass Era. It was so named in America due to the abundant use of brass for many parts of the designs of the era. Front light housings and radiators were the most prominent of the brass components and were often kept highly polished, creating a brilliant visual effect. Automobile historians consider the Brass Era as mainly from 1896 through 1915. During this time automobiles were referred to generically as “horseless carriages.” In other parts of the world within the British Empire the Brass Era was to become known to antique auto connoisseurs as the Veteran era (pre 1904) or the Edwardian era.

In the early part of this period steam-car development had advanced, making steam cars some of the fastest road vehicles of their day. The famous Stanley Steamer was very prominent throughout this era.

Electric cars also held a market share throughout the era. But it would be the gasoline internal combustion engine that would come to dominate the power sources of almost all autos.

Transmissions and throttle controls were widely adopted, allowing a variety of cruising speeds, though vehicles generally still had discrete speed settings, rather than the infinitely variable system familiar in cars of later eras. Safety glass also made its debut, patented by John Wood in England in 1905 but would not become standard equipment until 1926 on a Rickenbacker. Angle steel took over from armored wood as the frame material of choice, and in 1912, Hupp pioneered the use of all-steel bodies, joined in 1914 by Dodge.

Within the 20 years that make up this era, the various experimental designs and alternative power systems would be marginalized. Many models were a one of a kind, hand built, with the next model of the same manufacturer having many changes to the previous model. And, although the modern touring car had been invented earlier, it was not until Panhard’s Systeme Panhard was widely licensed and adopted that recognizable and standardized automobiles were created. This specified a front-mounted internal combustion engine, rear-wheel driven, with a sliding gear transmission.

The high-wheeled motor buggy (resembling the horse buggy of before 1900) was in its heyday. Development of automotive technology was rapid, due in part to hundreds of small manufacturers competing to gain the world’s attention but were only gradually abandoned, in favor of the more advanced runabouts, tonneau models, and other more expensive closed bodies. The cheaper lower realm of manufacturers were eventually killed off by the Ford Model T.

From Wikipedia:

Lists of North American manufacturers of this era[edit]

Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly 1904 list[edit]

In January, 1904, Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly magazine catalogued the entire range of automobiles available to the mass market in the United States. This list included:

Fred H. Colvin’s list as of 1917[edit]

Fred H. Colvin, who covered the American automotive industry for many years as a journalist and editor of trade journals, wrote in his memoir (1947) about his experiences:[7]

I have already indicated how the early “craze” for horseless carriages caused automobile plants to spring up like mushroom growths all over the country, just as hundreds of locomotive plants had sprung up in the early days of railroading. In both instances, however, the great majority faded out of the picture once the industry had become firmly established. As late as 1917, there were 127 different makes of American automobiles on the market, as compared with little more than a dozen in 1947 [i.e. at the time of this writing]. For the sake of the completeness of the present record, and in order to aid future scholars and research workers, I should like to give the list of American automobiles current thirty years ago [i.e., 1917]:

Abbott-DetroitAllenAmerican-SixAndersonAppersonArbenzAuburnAustinBellBiddleBrewsterBour-DavisBriscoeBuickCadillacCameronCaseChalmersChandlerChevroletColeCrow-ElkhartDanielsDavisDetroiter, Dispatch, Dixie FlyerDobleDodgeDorrisDort, Drexel, ElcarElgin, Emerson, Empire, Enger, FiatFord, Fostoria, Franklin, F.R.P., GlideGrantHackettH.A.L.HalladayHarrounHarvardHaynesHollierHudsonHupmobileInter-StateJacksonJefferyJordanKingKisselKline, Laurel, Lenox, LexingtonLibertyLocomobileLozierLuverne, Madison, Maibohm, Majestic, Marion-HandleyMarmonMaxwellMcFarlan, Mecca, MercerMetzMitchellMoline-KnightMonarch, Monitor, MonroeMoon, Morse, Murray, NationalNelsonOaklandOldsmobileOwenPackardPaigePartin-PalmerPatersonPathfinderPeerlessPierce-ArrowPilotPremier, Princess, PullmanRegalRepublicReoRichmondRoamerRossSaxonScripps-BoothSpauldingSimplex, Singer, StandardStanley SteamerStearns-KnightStephens, Stewart, StudebakerStutzSunVelieWestcottWhiteWillys-KnightWinton, and Yale.

A great many more names, including BrushDuryeaAlcoSpeedwell, and Waverly, had already disappeared from the scene by 1917.

Other North American makes[edit]

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