Original Drawings of America’s First Car to Be Auctioned

YONKERS, NY – January 4, 2007 – Drawings of America’s first mass-produced car, in the hand of its designer, are among an archive ofautomobile documents and books were auctioned on January 3, 2007.

The Duryea automobile beat Henry Ford into the history books when they made thirteen cars by “mass production” in the 1890s. Five pencil and ink drawings of its engine and transmission show the humble beginnings of the American car.

Brothers Charles and J. Frank Duryea also won the first auto race in America in 1895, for which they took home a $2,000 prize. A Duryea car has been in the Smithsonian since 1920.

The archive, the world’s most comprehensive private collection relating to the Duryea brothers, also includes original photos of later Duryea contraptions, one looking like a phone booth on wheels; another, a three-wheeler steered by a tiller.

A friend of the Wright Brothers, Henry Ford, and other pioneer inventors, Charles Duryea once boasted that he would have invented the airplane if the Wrights hadn’t.

Rare letters in the collection from Charles Duryea are filled with his “world language”, with its odd spelling. Reminiscing about the most primitive origins of the automobile, he writes, in 1931, “Talkt with a man y’day whose frend actually put a stuft horse in front of the power
vehicle, to avoid scaring horses. Another man remembers that a steam man pulled a cart about Broad & Erie in this city [Philadelphia] about 1876 or earlier…”

Also in the collection:
-The oldest known American auto racing “poster”, from 1897, showing a Duryea “horseless wagon” and autographed by J. Frank Duryea, the car’s designer. It also advertises the “Boy Wonder” bicycle

– The first sales catalogue for an American car, the 1897 Duryea, made in Springfield,

– The original manuscript record book of Charles Duryea’s next car venture. On July 20, 1900, it records, “The first carriage was taken out of the shop and operated on May 29th, after which some changes were made and the wagon body finished and was shipped on July

– Original literature representing over twenty other automobile adventures of the two brothers after their splitup

– Possibly the first book completely devoted to the automobile, an 1896 French volume, showing the Duryea.

The collection, containting over 300 items, some of them unique, was offered by Cohasco, Inc., a Yonkers, NY auction house. Its value is estimated at $125,000 to $150,000.


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