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Automobile Topics of Interest

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Automobile Topics of Interest

The New York Times
June 29, 1902

A Steam Motor Car Invented and Built by a Harvard Sophomore — Long Island Automobile Club's Race Meet — Cost of Machines — Agitation for Speed Restrictions

George C. Cannon, a sophomore at Harvard University, and a son of President Henry W. Cannon of the Chase National Bank of this city, is the inventor and builder of a steam motor car which has been repeatedly run at the rate of more than a mile a minute upon an ordinary road, and has covered five miles upon a circular track, one-third of a mile in length, in 8:26 2-5, which is a world's record for a steam carriage.

For some time past the young student has taken a keen interest in automobiling, and last year he took an ordinary steam automobile, which was not speedy enough to suit him, and by changing it to conform to his ideas he increased the speed to about double its former rate.  He entered this car in the free-for-all class race at Providence last Fall and led the field over a considerable part of the course, finally falling behind and losing because of inability to pump water into the boiler fast enough to generate the amount of steam required to maintain the high speed.

The results of this experiment were so satisfactory to Mr. Cannon that he began last Winter the construction of a complete machine, embodying all the novelties of design and construction which he had invented.  This vehicle was completed a few weeks ago and delighted its inventor by making a third of a mile straightaway over a rough road in 0:21 1-5.  The steam pressure at the start of the trial was 250 pounds, and at the finish 240 pounds.  The next trial was over a smooth road, when half a mile, straightaway, was covered in 0:29 4-5, with a steam pressure of 300 pounds at the start and 305 pounds at the finish.

The machine was then tried on a circular concrete bicycle track one-third of a mile in length, upon which five miles was covered in 9:09 3-5, breaking the world's record for steam carriage at that distance by 0:31 1-5.  About a week later, on the same track and in a drizzling rain, this time was still further reduced to 8:26 2-5.

The Cannon car, though not so freakish in appearance as the Baker racing machine which was the cause of a fatal accident at the recent speed trials on Staten Island, is strikingly novel in appearance as well as in construction.  Its most prominent feature is the large boiler surmounted by a short obliquely placed stack, which is placed almost in the middle of the carriage.  Back of it is the engine, and in the extreme rear is the engineer's seat.

A particularly rakish effect is given to the front of the car by a large water tank with sloping sides, holding twenty gallons, which also acts as a dashboard and wind shield for the driver, whose seat is between it and the boiler.

The large boiler gives the machine the appearance of being much heavier than it really is, for in reality it is very light and is better fitted for racing and straightaway use than for general road work.  The frame is an exceptionally strong one, with arched tubular trusses, which were reversed, this being made more rigid and also bringing the body considerably lower.  This frame carries four coach springs, which support a flat body consisting of an angle iron framework filled in with oak.  The boiler engine, tanks, seats, &c., rest upon and are bolted to this body.

The boiler is 24 inches, with 1,050 tubes, and has a covering of asbestos one inch thick as a non-conductor.  The outer covering is of sheet iron and extends upward and obliquely backward to form a short stack and downward through the body to form a scoop, opening toward the front of the machine, which heats and drives air through the tubes of the burner.  The amount of air admitted is regulated by the driver, so that it may be kept uniform whether the car is running into the wind or before it.

The burner is of the ordinary type, but is probably the largest ever constructed.  It has 450 tubes and three mixing tubes.  The engine is simple, with two cylinders, 3½ by 4 inches, geared one to one with the rear wheels, and is capable of making over 1,000 revolutions per minute.

The fuel used is gasoline at a pressure of about 90 pounds, which gives a very hot fire by which steam at 200-pound pressure may be generated from cold water in less than two minutes.  In racing the steam pressure is maintained at over 400 pounds.  The steering is done by a horizontal wheel connecting with the front wheels.  The driver steers the machine and operates the throttle while the fireman attends to the fire.

***

For its race meet at Brighton Beach on Aug. 23 the Long Island Automobile Club has announced a programme of ten events, in which prizes to the value of $1,600 are offered as follows:

Event No. 1.—One-mile heat race for all classes under 1,500 pounds weight.  First heat, steam vehicles; second heat, electric vehicles; third heat, gasoline vehicles; final heat open to winners in each class.  Prizes, $25 to the winner of each heat, $50 to winner, and $25 to second in final heat.

Event No. 2.—Five miles, steam class, all weights.  First prize, $100; second prize, $50.

Event No. 3.—Five miles, electric class, all weights.  First prize, $100; second prize, $50.

Event No. 4.—Five miles, gasoline class, under 1,000 pounds.  First prize, $100; second prize, $50.

Event No. 5.—Five miles, gasoline class, 1,000 to 2,000 pounds' weight.  First prize, $100; second prize, $50.

Event No. 6.—Five miles, gasoline class, over 2,000 pounds' weight.  First prize, $100; second prize, $50.

Event No. 7.—Ten miles, free for all.  First prize, $200; second prize, $100.

Event No. 8.—Twenty-five-mile lap race, open to all classes.  First prize, $100; second prize, $50; $5 to the leader at each mile.

Event No. 9.—Obstacle race, open to all classes.  First prize, $50.

Event No. 10.—Pursuit race, open to all classes.  First prize, $100.

There will be no prizes unless at least two vehicles start, and no second prizes unless at least four start.  Winners may receive their prizes in cash or plate, at their option.

The pursuit race is a novelty in automobiling, though it has been for some time a favorite at cycling meets.  The contestants are placed at equal distances about the track, and each endeavors to overtake the competitor ahead of him, who drops out of the race as soon as he is overtaken, the last one in the race being the winner.  As every starter has the pole there are no advantages or disadvantages of position, as in the ordinary form of racing, where the vehicle which obtains the pole has a decided advantage over the rest of the field.

***

An ordinance to govern the use of automobiles in Philadelphia, which limits the speed in the city limits to five miles an hour, and is objectionable in many other respects to the automobilists of that city, is now pending in the Philadelphia Common Council, and the Philadelphia Automobile Club, which is opposing the measure, held a series of braking contests last week, which furnished some interesting figures regarding the ease with which motor vehicles may be controlled by expert operators.  The horse-drawn vehicles used to form a comparison of performances were shown to be much more difficult to stop than the motor vehicles, the ratio being in some cases almost 2 to 1.  At low speeds the automobiles were stopped in almost their own lengths.

A double team going at the rate of 21½ miles an hour required 61 feet in which to come to a halt, and a four-in-hand, driven at the rate of 17¼ miles an hour, required 66 2-3 feet, while Mors motor cars, weighing 2,200 pounds, and driven at the same rates of speed, required 40 and 22 feet, respectively.  A Packard car, weighing 2,100 pounds, and going at the rate of 19¾ miles an hour, was stopped in 42 2-3 feet, and an Oldsmobile, weighing 950 pounds, and going 21 miles an hour, was stopped in 33 feet.  The complete record of the tests is as follows:

MOTOR VEHICLES.
Stopping Miles Distance, Vehicle. Weight. Per Hour. Feet Locomobile .......... 1,200 27½ 71 Columbia ............ 2,700 17¼ 40½ Oldsmobile .......... 950 21 33 Autocar ............. 1,400 19½ 59? Autocar ............. 1,400 21½ 62? Winton .............. 2,000 23½ 56½ Mercedes ............ 2,300 25½ 68 1-6 Packard ............. 2,100 19¾ 42? Columbia ............ 2,700 12 12½ Panhard ............. 3,000 27¾ 74 Mors ................ 2,200 8 7¼ Mors ................ 2,200 13 10½ Mors ................ 2,200 17½ 22 Mors ................ 2,200 18½ 25 1-6 Mors ................ 2,200 21½ 40 Mors ................ 2,200 30 91¼ Electric ............ 1,900 14½ 30? Autocar ............. 1,400 24 50 1-5

HORSE VEHICLES.
Double team ......... .... 21½ 61 Four-in-hand ........ .... 17¼ 62?

***

Why the prices of automobiles remain high in spite of the large number of makers now engaged in turning out machines to the full capacity of their establishments is not understood by many persons who are anxiously awaiting a reduction of prices before purchasing.

With the history of the bicycle industry before them, in which there was a steady reduction of prices from the very start of that vehicle's real popularity, they look for a corresponding lowering of automobile prices, and are disappointed that it has not yet begun.

The fact is that there is practically no competition in the making of automobiles as yet, for the reason that all the makers are from one to six months behind on their orders, and the supply is in consequence far short of the demand.  Under these circumstances the makers, instead of being obliged to reduce their prices, have been able, in several instances of popular makers, to add $50 or $100 to the price at the beginning of the season.

This state of affairs is not affected by the importations of foreign machines, for the reason that the latter do not compete with American-built motor vehicles, being several times as expensive as the domestic built cars, and no better.  They are bought merely because they are of foreign make.  Moreover, a similar state of affairs exists abroad, all the foreign makers being even further behind their orders than the American manufacturers.  The agents in this city of one of the principal French firms will not guarantee delivery before November of vehicles ordered now.

Another season will probably tell a different story, as the business of this year will warrant most makers in enlarging their plants and turning out machines well in advance of their orders, which few of them have so far dared, of have been financially able to do.  Moreover, many more firms will enter the field now that the stability of the business seems assured.

For these reasons it seems probable that a reduction of prices may be anticipated next Spring, or even this Fall, if the makers succeed in catching up with their orders by that time.  But any reduction at such a time will be slight, and low prices cannot reasonably be expected until the standardization of parts reaches such a point that makers may purchase all the important parts of a motor vehicle in large quantities at very low prices instead of making them in their own shops or having them made to their order in small quantities.

This process has already begun, and it is now possible to purchase standard bodies, frames, gears, and motors for both steam and gasoline vehicles, but prices are yet too high for relief to be obtained from this source.  In two or three years more, however, it should be possible to buy any popular form of motor vehicle at about half the present prices.  A small light gasoline runabout for two persons should not cost over $300 or $350, instead of $650 or $700, as at present, and a touring car for four persons should sell at the present price of a runabout or less.

***

A report on automobilism in Prussia by Frank H. Mason, Consul General of the United States at Berlin, which has just been issued by the Bureau of Foreign Commerce, Department of State, contains much information of interest regarding the present status of the sport in Germany, and the opportunities for the introduction of American-built motor vehicles in that country.

***

It appears that automobilism as a means of locomotion, sport, ot recreation is still in the development stage in Germany.  Notwithstanding all the energy, ingenuity, and enterprise of various German builders, their sales have been in many cases slow and discouraging, and the number of motor carriages in actual use for travel and sporting purposesis very small.  The German Automobile Club, which, with the Middle European Motor Wagon Association, the annual Pan-German Motor Carriage Exposition in Berlin, comprises but sixteen clubs, with an aggregate membership of about 900 persons, and practically includes the automobile public of Germany.

These clubs are located at Berlin, Dresden, Frankfort, Halle, Munich, Hanover, Cologne, Leipsic, Strasburg, Bielefeld, Freiburg, Nuremberg, Hamburg, Breslau, Stuttgart, Dusseldorf, and Schoeneberg.  They are in general well organized and efficiently managed, but there has been thus far in Germany no such popular interest in automobilism as has been seen in France, England, and the United States.  This is apparently the result of a combination of causes, among which may be cited the fact that during the past two years the independent and leisure classes of people have suffered losses through the depression of business and depreciation of industrial and other securities, and have been therefore slow to invest in a luxury so costly and complicated as an automobile.

Another cause, doubtless, is the strictness with which the police regulations, to which all motor carriages throughout Germany are subject, are enforced.  There has never been—probably never will be in Germany—any such surrender of the public streets, parks, and country roads to motor carriages as has been seen in France, or even Italy and Austria.  Throughout Prussia the rate of speed permitted within municipal limits is limited to twelve kilometers (7.45 miles) an hour, and if this rate is exceeded there is inevitably a policeman in sight to halt the offender and bring him to justice.

***

Alexander Winton, who is one of the fathers of automobiling in America, has expressed his views on the matter of automobile speed, and incidentally has given an explanation of the danger of accident when traveling at a high speed, which throws a light on the heretofore unexplained accident to the Baker machine at the speed trials at Staten Island last month.

"At a speed of seventy miles an hour, or more," said Mr. Winton, "the machine is liable to leave the ground if it meets with even a slight obstruction, and if it goes into the air for only a second it will cover in that time a distance of from sixty to eighty feet, according to the speed.  In that event, the great danger is that it may have changed direction slightly while up, and may not be pointing straight down the course when it lights, and it may be impossible to straighten it out again before damage is done.

"It has been demonstrated repeatedly that automobiles can be operated with safety at a speed of seventy-five miles an hour, and I have driven them at that speed myself.  I have no hesitation in saying that they can be driven eighty miles an hour with safety, if the machines are properly built and are driven by a careful driver over a good road.  What we want is a speedway which has no waves, as it is a wavy surface which throws a machine up into the air most easily.  With a proper speedway, an expert driver, and a properly built machine, eighty miles is not an unsafe speed.  Machines will be driven above eighty miles an hour this season, and I will be one of the men who will do it."

***

Senator W. A. Clark of Montana, who has recently become an automobilist, says that he has adopted the motor vehicle as a time saver, but that when he wishes to ride for pleasure he will ride a horse.  He believes that as a time saver the automobile is bound to be almost universally adopted, as it has distanced the horse to the same appreciable extent that the electric car distances the old-time street car, and in time it will to a great extent take the place of the horse in industrial pursuits, but it will never entirely supplant the horse for pleasure driving.

***

According to the particular form of energy used, automobiles are generally classed as electric, gasoline, or steam motored vehicles, but it must be remembered that most steam-driven carriages use gasoline as a fuel and consume more of it for that purpose than do many of the gasoline motors proper, in which the gasoline is vaporized and exploded to obtain an expansive force.  Some steam motors use kerosene as a fuel, and some gas engines use alcohol or a mixture of alcohol and gasoline, but these may be disregarded and the general statement made that all but the electric vehicles depend upon gasoline as the source of their energy.


Notes for the Automobilists.

Automobile racing will be one of the attractions of the New York State Fair to be held at Syracuse beginning Sept. 8.

A Western automobilist who shipped a touring car from Boston to Chicago by express had to pay $176 in charges.

S. T. Davis, Jr., is touring the South in his racing locomobile in which he made a mile in 1:12 at Staten Island on May 31.

Automobiles in St. Louis are limited to a speed of not more than eight miles an hour on the streets and six miles an hour in the parks.  The penalty for violation is a fine of not less than $5 nor more than $500.

According to the report of the United States Consul at Beiroot, Syria, 500 motor carriages are now running in that city and several hundred more are in use in the Lebanon district and in Palestine, while two-seated automobile surreys of American manufacture are run to accomodate tourists between Haifa and Jerusalem.

An organization to be known as the Berkshire Automobile Club has been organized in Pittsfield, Mass., with the following officers:  President—Dr. O. S. Roberts; Vice President—Dr. F. W. Brandow; Secretary—L. A. Merchant; Treasurer—E. T. Siocum.

The Massachusetts Automobile Club of Boston, Mass., is to have a country clubhouse at Heard's Island, seventeen miles from the city.  The grounds are spacious and front on the water, affording facilities for golf, tennis, boating, and other outdoor sports.

Two local automobilists recently made a run from New York to Oceanic, N. J., by way of Staten Island and New Brunswick, a distance of sixty-three miles, according to the cyclometer, in an electric phaeton, without being obliged to recharge the batteries, and the power was still strong at the end of the trip.

All forty-horse-power cars of a prominent French type are required to go a mile in 0:56 before the makers will deliver them.

At a recent dinner in his honor, President Winthrop E. Scarrett of the American Automobile Association was presented with a white steam carriage by H. W. Whipple of the Automobile Club of America in appreciation of his services to the sport.

President Brown of the American Motor League has appointed S. W. Merrihew Secretary to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Frank Egan.

An idea of the popularity of motor vehicles in France may be gained from the statement of a French journal devoted to the sport, that there are from 20,000 to 30,000 automobiles in Paris and that one maker has sold 35,000 machines of his make.



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