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In 1893 the Duryea brothers (Charles E and J. Frank) created one of America’s first gasoline-powered cars in Springfield, Massachusetts. Up until now the Duryeas had built bicycles in Peoria, Illinois but Charles wished to build a automobile and so whilst he designed it, his younger brother J.Frank built the first prototype. This first vehicle was said to be very crude being no more than a horseless carriage with a basic engine.  In 1895 a second vehicle was built and entered the first Motor Car race (Chicago Times-Herald Race) in America.  Due to weather conditions only 6 vehicles turned up with three of those being Benz vehicles imported from Germany.  At 7 mph, the Duryea, driven by J.Frank came first and won the $2,000 price.

In 1896 the American Automobile industry was born when 13 identical Duryea Motor Wagons were built with 8hp engines. Two of these entered the “London to Brighton Emancipation run” in the UK and the one driven by J.Frank came first beating its nearest rival by 75 minutes.  This was obviously frowned on by the British as J.Frank was awarded a trophy for his “prompt arrival” - the assumed winner of the race yet to arrive. In the same year in the Cosmopolitan race a Duryea was involved in the first recorded American automobile accident.  The driver was arrested and thrown into jail.

The company built both 3 and 4-wheelers but due to alleged arguments it was dissolved in 1898.  J.Frank remained in Massachusetts and joined the Stevens Arms and Tool Company which then produced the Stevens-Duryea vehicle up until 1927.  Charles moved to Pennsylvania and over the following years had many unsuccessful ventures in building 3 and 4-wheeled vehicles. He became the Mechanical Editor and Consulting Engineer for the “Automobile Trade Journal” up until his death in 1939 aged 76.


An 1899 Duryea delivery van.

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