A peek into our collections, one object at a time

Duryea Automobile

September 20, 2011

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Duryea Automobile, 1893-94
Smithsonian's National Museum of American History

Duryea Automobile, 1893-94

This 1893-94 Duryea is one of the earliest American-made automobiles. On Sept. 21, 1893, in Springfield, Mass., Frank Duryea road-tested a second-hand carriage with a gasoline engine. In 1896, Duryea, his brother Charles and financial backers founded the Duryea Motor Wagon Co., the first American company to manufacture and sell automobiles.

The Duryea automobile’s one-cylinder, four-cycle, four-horsepower, water-cooled gasoline engine lies almost horizontally beneath the carriage body, and its cylinder head extends backward above the rear axle. The automobile has a gear transmission (replacing the original friction transmission), a spray carburetor and a make-and-break ignition.

This Duryea automobile was donated to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in 1920.