Stanley Steamer History: Francis and Freelan Stanley were twin brothers who started out making dry plates for photography, sold out to Eastman Kodak, and then built their first automobile in 1897. They were among the first auto makers in the US and sold their first design to John Walker of the Locomobile Company of America in 1899. The Stanleys opened the Stanley Motor Carriage Company in 1902 and built steam engines and steam driven automobiles until 1924, commonly known as "Stanley Steamers".
The first Stanley Steamers bodies were made of wood that sat on metal frames. The steam came from an upright boiler under the seat, on top of a gasoline or kerosene fired burner. Vertical copper tubes in the boiler transferred the heat from the fire to the water and pressure relief valves prevented blow outs. The drive mechanism amounted to two side by side cylinders and the pistons were pushed in both directions by the steam pressure. The power was transmitted by chain and sprockets from the crankshaft to a differential.
Originally the steam engines were located in the back of the car but later moved to the front and in 1915 condensers were added to increase the driving distance. In 1906 the Stanley Steamer was the fastest car in the world, traveling a mile in 28.2 seconds.
By the late 1910s gasoline engines were cheaper and more efficient than steam and sales fell, despite the Stanley's efforts at claiming that their engine was safer. In 1917 they sold their company to Prescott Warren, who finally gave up in 1924.
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