I have more than a passing interest in cars and their history. When I came across this photo I had to find out more.
The Stanley Motor Carriage Company was an American manufacturer of steam-engine vehicles; it operated from 1902 to 1924. The cars made by the company were colloquially called Stanley Steamers, although several different models were produced.
Twins Francis E. Stanley (1849–1918) and Freelan O. Stanley (1849–1940) founded the company after selling their photographic dry plate business to Eastman Kodak. They produced their first car in 1897. During 1898 and 1899, they produced and sold over 200 cars, more than any other U.S. maker. In 1899, Freelan and his wife Flora drove one of their cars to the top of Mount Washington in New Hampshire, the third highest peak in the eastern United States. The ascent took more than two hours and was notable as being the first time a car had climbed the 7.6 miles (12.2 km) long Mount Washington Carriage Road; the descent was accomplished by putting the engine in low gear and braking extensively. The twins later sold the rights to this early design to Locomobile, and in 1902 they formed the Stanley Motor Carriage Company. (Source: Wikipedia)
The history of these unique cars can be found on this Wikipedia page. It certainly makes interesting reading.
In 1917, after F.E. Stanley’s accidental death, F.O. Stanley sold the interests to Prescott Warren. The company then endured a period of decline and technological stagnation. As the production specifications show, no models with a power output higher than 20 hp (15 kW) were produced after 1918. Far better cars were available at much lower cost – for example, a 1924 Stanley 740D sedan cost $3950 ($53567 today), compared to under $500 for a Ford Model T. Widespread use of electric starters in internal combustion cars eroded the greatest remaining technological advantages of the steam car. Efficiencies of scale, a lack of effective advertising and general public desire for higher speeds and less fussy starting than were possible with the Stanley technology were the primary causes of the company’s demise and the factory closed for good in 1924.
It makes you wonder where we would be today if this technology had continued to be developed.
- Steam-Car Speed Record Of 148 MPH On The Line (earthtechling.com)