With the recent advent in force, of motor vehicles under their various synonyms of horseless carriage, automobile, auto-cars, and motor-cycles, in a list in which the roots auto and moto enter into many names designating the specialties of manufacture in Europe and in the United States, comes the search by the curious to find the true history of progress in the development of self-propelled vehicles.
Wheels as a rolling device have been in use for more than four thousand years with oxen and horses as their propelling power for transportation. The only improvement during the past four hundred years has been in the art design of the vehicles, and only during the past two centuries has thought been given to other means or powers of vehicle propulsion.
The spirit of invention and improvement seems to have taken a movement among thinking minds in the fourteenth century and was thus early expounded by that philosopher in mechanics, Roger Bacon, in the following prophetic words:
"We will be able to construct machines which will propel ships with greater speed than a whole garrison of rowers, and which will need only one pilot to guide them, we will be able to propel carriages with incredible speed without the assistance of any animal, and we will be able to make machines which, by means of wings, will enable us to fly in the air like birds."
The first indication of the application of a mechanical device for the propulsion of vehicles seems to have begun in the sixteenth century in a vehicle propelled by springs, built in Nuremberg, Holland, by Johann Haustach. The spring motor fever raged at times during the passing centuries and seems to have culminated in the United States a quarter of a century since as spring-stored power for street railway cars and vehicles. Its life for such work was short. Its true sphere is a lasting one through the centuries for the storage of power for time service.
Wind sails for vehicle propulsion were a common sight in Holland away back in the palmy days of the republic and have since been seen on our Western prairies, but no permanent success has resulted from this power for vehicle propulsion .
The first effort at propelling a vehicle by steam seems to have been made bv a Jesuit missionary, Father Verbrest, in the thirteenth century, probably using the re-action wheel of the Heron type that had apparently laid dormant for more than a thousand years.
It was a steam propelled vehicle, with a motor of the reciprocating type, that made its advent with the early progress of the steam engine for power purposes that was the forerunner of the thousands of self-propelled vehicles that have as it seems sprung into useful operation during the last decade of the nineteenth century. Steam traction vehicles for haulage, for drays, for plowing and for passenger service have advanced steadily in Europe and in the United States, even extending to many other countries.
The advent of the internal combustion motor soon gave a new phase to the self-propelled vehicle, and gave a further impulse to its use as a pleasure carriage. The electric motor and the storage battery seem to have followed in due time to form the triad of powers that will give the horseless vehicle all the probable elements of success in every avenue of usefulness.
The gasoline motor was first used for vehicle propulsion with success about i888, but was proposed at an earlier date by Lenoir in France. The electric motor and storage battery soon followed and came into use within the last decade of the nineteenth century.
The patents in the United States for motive power and running gear date back to the beginning of the century in small numbers,increased in the decades from i860 to i880, and in the last decade of the century swelled up to a total of about 275. The earlier patents that expired previous to i886 covered nearly all the essential features of the present construction.
It appears from published data that in Europe there are now well over 7,000 owners of automobiles. Many of these own more than one vehicle, so that perhaps the number of vehicles could be put at i0,000 Of the 7,000 no fewer than 5,600 are in France. The general idea has been that in France the interest was centered in Paris, but this is erroneous , there being of the 5,600 no fewer than 4,54i scattered all through the departments. In France, moreover, there are 619 manufacturers of automobiles, not including makers of detail parts, 998 of them, i,095 repair shops, 3,939 stores for oil, gas, etc., and 265 electric charging plants and " posts." For the remainder of Europe the figures are far from complete , but it would appear that there are 268 owners of automobiles in Germany, 90 in Austro-Hungary, 90 in Belgium, 44 in Spain, 3"4 in Great Britain, iii in Italy, 68 in Holland, ii4 in Switzerland, and 35 in Russia, Denmark, Portugal. No such figures as these are at present obtainable for the United States, and if we put the number of automobiles in this country at 700 it will probably be an exaggeration. The number of makers actually at work or organizing is probably more than i00. Fortunately for our credit, as an inventive and enterprising nation, the first year of the new century ushers in with every promise of a great outburst of activity in the manufacture of automobiles of every description .
American constructors of gasoline motor vehicles have from the beginning aimed to regulate speed through the motor and to reduce the speed gears to one or two, obtaining all intermediate speeds by increase or diminution of the charge. In many of the French and American vehicles intermediate speeds are obtained by varying the tension of driving belt or other friction devices, and it is to be noted that the very latest French construction tends in the same direction as our own, viz., toward speed regulation by the motor. This tendency is universal, and it is only because the necessity ol striking out in that direction was appreciated in the United Slates Irom the beginning that American constructors to-day may be considered as far, il not larther, advanced than their competitors in other countries where automcbile experience is ol much older date. When the speed changes in gasoline vehicles are under consideration , it should also be remembered that the momentum of a vehicle in motion always serves to efface all abruptness in the transition from a higher speed to a lower one or the reverse.
Steam seems to have taken the lead as the source of power for the horseless vehicles in England and'France, with varying success, dragging slowly along with the progress of the steam engine for nearly a century, yet hampered by popular and governmental prejudice, obstructive laws and bad roads, which even in this enlightened decade has not been entirely cleared away. Official restrictions are still retarding the progress of the automobile in the United States; but are fast disappearing in Europe During the past half century, the improvement of common roads has made great progress in France, Germany and England, so that at the present time France has taken the lead in good roads and is equally in the lead in the manufacture of automobiles.
In England the agitation in the interests of good roads started more than a half century since, with only steam traction interest as the principal mover. Single-handed it battled for road improvement with but slow progress against popular prejudice and obstructive regulations and laws. The advent of the explosive and electric motors lor vehicle propulsion, added other and powerful impulses in the agitation for good roads, and with the pressure from the vast' bicycle interest the quadriad ol forces has come together with a combined power that will, we hope, make road improvement a foregone conclusion and a necessity in this and all other countries of progressive instincts. With good roads in the United States the automobile industry should soon forge to the Irontin legitimate activity. The motor vehicle contests in France, England and the United States during the past hall dozen years, have done much to wake up an interest in the good roads movement and with their improvement the automobile will take its proper place in our every-day locomotion; but we do not fear its supersession of the horse.
Of the automobile contests that have been a source of encouragement in the improvement of both vehicles and roads, may be mentioned the French trial races from Paris to Rouen in i894, and from Paris to Bordeaux and return in i895. These were followed by the Chicago trial races in the fall of i895, which was won by a German automobile, the Benz, brought over as a sample by Mueller & Sons, of Decatur, 111. A year later the Chicago Times-Herald organized a contest with an offer ol $5,000 in prizes for a 54mile run. A large number of automobiles of foreign and American make were entered. The three modes of power were represented.
As the time approached for the run one after another ol the contestants excused themselves as not being ready, which resulted in two vehicles making the start. The German gasoline vehicle of Mueller & Sons was alone to finish the race. This proving unsatisfactory, a further contest was made up for a later date, which, unfortunately, brought a very bad condition of the road, but resulted in prizes lor various kinds of showing in power, endurance and ease of management to the Duryea Motor Wagon Co. (gasoline), H. Mueller & Sons (gasoline Benz motor), a Roger-Benz (gasoline motor-cycle), the Sturgis Electric motor-cycle, the Morris & Solom electrobat, G. W. Lewis (gasoline motor-cycle), Haynes & Apperson (gasoline motor-cycle), the Hertel (gasoline motor-carriage), and the Hornby-Akroid (gasoline carriage ). Nothing of this character beyond a few individual runs and an exhibition, that has attracted special attention, has been done in England. In Germany, while the motorcarriage industry has been developed to a large extent, we hear of no well contested trials similar to those in France and in the United States, having been made.
In June, i896, an automobile contest was made in New York from the City Hall to Tarrytown on the Hudson and return, under the auspices of the Cosmopolitan Magazine, which seems to have started a fresh impulse in American automobile industry. This contest was won by the Duryea gasoline motor-wagon. These contests and subsequent exhibits and trials have resulted in the formation of the American Automobile Club, now numbering over 200 members, with its headquarters in New York City. This with the L. A. YV. interest should become a vast force in tne interest of good roads.
A general interest and enquiry has already been aroused all over this country in regard to automobile possibilities, and for information as to the constructive details and action of the various motive powers of the self-propelled vehicles. France has so far taken the lead in the development of the automobile as a pleasure carriage. The reason for that is not far to seek. Paris, where the automobile is carrying everything before it, is in a superlative degree the city of good roads. Asphalt pavements, kept in perfect order and smooth as a billiard table, offer tempting inducements to automobile constructors and riders. Every variety of design and device for self-propulsion can be tested under the most advantageous conditions. If easy running, with good loads and high speed, cannot be attained on the Paris boulevards, then it is impracticable anywhere. Prizes have been offered to stimulate invention and races arranged to test the devices offered.
To a great extent, what is true of Paris applies in nearly equal degree to the other large cities of France, and to the roads connecting them. Long runs can be made with the assurance of rinc'ing the perfection of good roads the entire distance. If, as is frequently the case, automobiles break down or fail from exhaustion of motive power under such conditions, it should be through no fault in construction or in ineffectiveness of the motive power when subjected to the test of long journeys, (or this is common to all methods of travel.
Following in the contest methods for invigorating constructive and perfect action in all parts of a vehicle and its power, the great contest in France in i897 has been most prolific in results in the improvement of its weak points. In the Paris to Dieppe contest no less than 69 entries were made. Fifty-five started in the race, and a finish was made by more than one-half the starters. A successful and continuous trip of i,000 miles from Warsaw, Russian Poland, through Germany and Belgium to Paris by an automobile built by Peugeot, in i0 days, and the late run of a VVinton from Cleveland to New York, a distance of 707 miles, in 47^ running hours, counts largely in favor of the luture stability, durability and ease of control in the vehicles ol the new motor age.
It is now fairly demonstrated that the horseless vehicle can be driven long distances over medium good roads at average speeds of i4 miles per hour, and for touring parties this leaves the horse drag far in the shade for care and expense.
The automobile fever has set innumerable inventors at work on motors of various kinds, while many bona-fide companies have been formed for real work in producing automobiles lor the market, and many more who are not inventors , or even manufacturers, that have organized away up in the millions for apparently the sole purpose of hoisting upon capitalists a worthless stock.
There seems to be but three kinds of motive power that are taking the lead, viz., steam, internal combustion and electric motors, each of which has its adherents or is specially suited to its own sphere of action or special field of usefulness. As for compressed air, the radius of action for road vehicles is somewhat limited, and although it has been tried in England and some experiments made in the United States, it has not as yet made much progress. In railway propulsion it has taken a fairly solid base for useful work, having been in use in Europe and the United States during the past twenty years.
In mining traction and for stationary and portable motor work it has taken a leading and important position as a motive power.
Carbonic acid gas has as yet failed to give satisfaction, owing to the great sacrifice of pressure from its liquid state required to bring it within the limit of the working strength of a motor.
Acetylene gas is somewhat expensive, and, although but slightly experimented with for vehicle power, it is yet to be developed as to its radius of usefulness in automobile work. Liquid air is out of the question tor motor power. The present year may be said to be a crucial one in the development ol the automobile into permanent lines of design of motors, running gear and bodies best adapted to each of the kinds of motive power.
When you first sit in a motor carriage and feel yourself being carried over the ground with no horses in front of you, it produces a pleasurable sensation As you become more accustomed to it, the leeling grows to one of delight and lastly you are completely "carried away" with it. You experience only half the joyous possibilities ol a motor carriage when riding as a passenger. The other hall, we have learned, is the driving. When you have the steeringlever in your hand and can speed ahead at your own pleasure by simply pressing a button, or lever; when you wish to increase, or lessen the speed, or to make a quick run with a neighbor, then it is truly a new and delightful sensation . The vehicle of this type is so easily and safely controlled that one soon acquires the feeling of perfect confidence in himself and the motor. You can stop so suddenly , turn so abruptly, or go backwards almost as quick as thought.
Happy should be the owner of an automobile. While the over enthusiastic journals and newspapers are harping on the passing of the horse, it may justly be claimed that an incompetent driver of horses may cause as much damage as one on an automobile, but as men have been driving horses for several thousand years it is fair to presume that the green hands in the business are fewer than those in the art of steering a motor carriage. If we are about to change to a new mode of locomotion, this is a good ime to begin demanding a certain amount of skill and knowledge on the part ol the man at the lever. The fee lor examination in cities should be nominal, and the board of ex .miners should be made up of engineers and experts in such machinery . There is no reason why the license leature should be any more of a hardship than it is tor drivers ol public vehicles. It is certainly desirable for the general public that none but competent men be allowed to manipulate the new vehicles, especially for the next lew years, while the horse is becoming reconciled to the new order ol things.
In providing lor the limit of speed allowed to automobiles there is no reason why the regulations should be any more severe than those now in use to prevent fast driving with horses. Reckless speed—with horses, bicycles and automobiles alike—is chiefly a matter of place and time. A speed that is perfectly safe on an empty street might deserve arrest of the driver in a crowded park. An arbitrary limit of some kind must be set, but its enforcement, as in the case of bicycles, will have to be left largely to the discretion of police officers. The licensing of the drivers will be a far more effective check upon reckless speed, for one or two offenses of this sort can be made the occasion of taking away a driver's license. The ordinance now in force in Paris should be a useful model for the proposed measure in the cities of the United States.
The pleasure carriage is essentially an article of luxury, and it has required hundreds of years of use and the talents of the most skilled to bring it to its present perfect condition , and riders will demand of automobiles the same freedom from noise and the same ease of motion that they get with the horse-drawn vehicle. Cabs and other public conveyances , as well as vehicles for freight purposes, must be provided with positive, reliable power, one that is quick to respond to the calls made upon it, and one that will give the best results with the lightest possible weight; one, too, that is simple, effective and economical. Capital stands ready for bona-fide investment in stages and trucks as well as in pleasure vehicles, just so soon as motor builders can guarantee their motors to do what is required of them. The advantages and disadvantages of the three kinds of motive power for vehicles may be briefly stated for tne consideration of all interested in the operation of the horseless vehicle.
The advantages of steam power may be salely assumed to be, first, absence of vibration when standing or running; second, light weight and simple transmission; third, fuel and water easily attainable; fourth, perfect control over all speeds forward or backward.
Its disadvantages are chiefly, first, municipal obstructions in regard to the use of steam power, second, practical knowledge required in the care and operation of steam power; third, injury to boiler and loss of steaming power by incrustation (which may be remedied by second requirement ); fourth, length of time to get up steam, a few moments only; fifth, required watchfulness of water level and operation of the burner, whether automatic or not. The advantages with internal combustion motors are, first, absolute safety from fire or explosion. second, mod erate weight in proportion to power; third, economy in fuel and its ready purchase on the road; fourth, freedom from municipal obstruction as to kind of power; filth, its operation easily learned.
Its disadvantages are, first, more or less vibration according to design of motor; second, motors must be started by hand through a lever or by crank, although this is not required in some motors; third, complexity of change speed gear and its operation.
In the electric storage battery system, the advantages are, first, a simple and direct transmission from a reversible rotary motor; second, ease of operating the motor for all speeds forward and backward; third, freedom from vibration at all times and from noise except possibly at very high speed; fourth, no preparation required for starting; fifth, freedom from anxiety in regard to the motive power and its care; sixth, ease of recharging the batteries from a local current plug in the vehicle stable. Its disadvantages are, first, its limited radius of distance from the source of supply, say from 20 to 40 miles hence, only available in cities or towns having electric stations, or to a limited extent from country electric stations: second, excessive weight and short life of batteries, in proportion to load carried third, excessive cost ot power when charging current has to be purchased.
For local operation where a gasoline motor electric plant is used for house lighting, the economy is apparent. Already the tendency at this stage in the progress of manufacture of automobiles ol all kinds o! motive power is to meet the desire of owners and operators of these vehicles for great power and fast speed. This should be guarded against as tending to encourage road racing, which is not desirable in a pleasure carriage and should be confined to models for racing on suitable tracks or speedwa\ s. No one thinks of driving a horse up a hill at a full trot; a slow walk seems to satisfy most driving tourists. Then why should a motor vehicle be overloaded with machinery and itself made heavier to accomplish excessive speed either on the road or in hill climbing. This idea is especially pointed for family comfort on the road and for touring. Where is the pleasure of rushing through the country at break-neck speed with eyes riveted upon your machine gear and losing the scenic beauty of travel?
This is most applicable to the man of business who owns an automobile and wishes to derive relief from business cares and vexations by a pleasurable drive in a vehicle 'that gives confidence in its simplicity of running gear and ease of management. The cost is also in favor of simplicity of construction as well as a point with the purchaser. If for recreation, freedom Irom the thought of complicated parts and movements and the vexation of finding defects while on the road are most necessary conditions in the design of the horseless carriage. Let the lovers of racing sport only hold the reins ol the last automobile and 11 joy its dangers.
There is much improvement yet to be made m all the modes of generating and applying power to tt.e motor machinery as well, also to the reduction of weigr : a.'d parts without losing the required strength for the proper work of the vehicle.
With steam-propelled vehicles the steering and speed movements appear to be reduced to the most -imple and direct terms. It is the boiler and burner that are in the progressive stage of automatic control; but automatic devices, like other complex devices, require watching to give confidence in their action, and therein lies its principal trouble. The speed control is faultless.
The internal combustion or explosive motor system has its advantages and its failings. A self-starting motor with one cylinder is not yet available for vehicles unless the motor is previously turned to the proper position for a forward impulse.
With two cylinders the conditions are better and with three or four cylinders with consecutive impulse the requirement for self-starting seems to be satisfactory. For any number of cylinders the lever and pawl starting device operated from the carriage seat has proved satisfactory and desirable. The devices for changing the motor speed by varying the charge or by mischarge, work well above the minimum speed at which the motor will run, say about 200 revolutions per minute, and from this to 800 or as claimed by some builders, i,000 or more revolutions per minute, the direct control is in most cases satisfactory; but this does not cover the requirement—a forward and reverse low speed is necessary,—and at least one maximum speed beyond the capacity of the direct motor speed seems also necessary and an intermediary speed is largely in use. This involves a complication of gears and gear movements that seem to be the only drawback to a most satisfactory application of this motor power for vehicles. It adds complex changes of gearing to the operating movements with its buzz in high speed and adds many parts to be oiled, cleaned and watched for loose joints from the jar of the running gear.
With the electric motor there seems to be the most freedom from care of all the motive powers. The driving is fully as simple as with the steam motor with its direct application to the carriage wheels, few parts to cause apprehension and any incidental derangements easily found and remedied with but a small practical knowledge of the wiring connections.
The weight and life of the storage batteries are the chief consideration for the usefulness of the electric motor vehicle for touring or long journeys. The improvements in storage batteries of late seem to have largely reduced the shortcoming of this system, and extend its radius of operation within reasonable limits of weight, to about i00 miles for pleasure automobiles and to about 40 miles for heavy or delivery wagons. The increase of electric light plants in the cities and principal towns throughout the United States make it possible to arrange touring routes for electric motor vehicles for extended circuits, and thus enable this quiet and easily managed power to become available for long journeys.
The arrangements for steering vary largely in detail and may be divided into three distinct methods.
First, by pivoting the axle at its centre and operating its function by a screw or geared sector operated by a handwheel . This was one of the early devices and was found clumsy and undesirable. It has found its best practical use in both forms in road rollers and traction engines. In a road roller that we have examined, the traverse nut and screw are operated by the engine with a double-clutch and lever, which overcomes the difficulty of turning the broadfaced roller by hand.
The hub pivot is in general use with hand-lever connections for light vehicles and hand-wheel connections for the heavier class.
An improvement in placing the pivots in the central plane of rotation of the steering wheels has entirely removed the hand shock by the direct lever connection, and has given to the automobile quadricyclc the bicycle facility for steerage. This is one of the most desirable conditions in the guidance of motor vehicles The swiveling of the steering axle in the vertical plane is the most general in use and preferably to any arrangement of an elastic frame, whether the elasticity is in the metal bars or jointed fittings.
Of resilient tires the pneumatic is the one which gives the best results. Instead of the entire weight of the vehicle having to be raised over any intervening obstruction, or crushing it into the roadway, or when passing over a soft surface the wheel sinking in such a manner that it must either crush down or surmount the incline in front of it, the pneumatic tire, on the contrary, absorbs or swallows up, so to say, either entirely or partially, the obstruction, and thus obviates the necessity for the lifting of the wheel and vehicle, or at any rate greatly reduces the height through which such lifting action must take place. Not only is an obstacle more easily surmounted in this manner, but, furthermore , the tire obtains a better grip. The striking of any obstacle which may be situated on the one or the other side of the actual contact point on the wheel base is also to a large extent taken up by the cushioning action of a pneumatic tire, and the pressure exerted through the spokes is greatly reduced in consequence of this reduction in side thrusts. In the case of the steering wheels this is an advantage of great value, inasmuch as it enables them to be maneuvered with a greatly reduced expenditure of energy, and renders their operation a far easier matter.
It seems, therefore, that for the lighter class ot vehicle, anJ especially those fitted with pneumatic tires, lever steering is the most suitable, as being the quickest in action and the simplest. But for the heavier vehicles and those which are not fitted with resilient tires, wheel-steering gear is practically a necessity.
In the design and construction of the automobile one thing has been apparently lost sight of that will be greatly missed, and that is storage space. Under the seat and back of same in the buggy of the doctor or the country parson there was room for a hamper of provisions for the picnic party, a grip of the traveler or some supplies for the needy. In the light runabout of the contractor or jobber the same space gave him accommodation for tools or samples, and in the carriage in general such space, out of the way of the occupant and always at hand, has been looked upon as a necessity. This space in the automobile is occupied by the driving mechanism, and when on a touring trip the baggage is necessarily piled upon the carriage in a manner that suggests a moving day. Space for grip or baggage is one of the things in order of improvement in automobile construction. There is nothing of importance that we are waiting for to add to the automobile. No startling inventions are called for, and none probably are coming to solve the motor problem. All the mechanical essentials have been devised seemingly complete and ready at our hand.
It is the combination and adaptation of well-known details that is needed to perfect the automobile mechanism, rather than pure invention. Many of the detailed parts have been brought into practical use within the past few years and are held under patents to the detriment of progress in automobile construction on the best lines of mechanical design. The bicycle has throughout its marvelous development been preparing the way for a vastly greater vehicle than itself. The tubing, the wheels and tires, the ball bearings, the sprocket and chain, the steel for every part, and the numerous products of automatic machinery have contributed to the perfect action of this elegant and speedy adjunct to the human motor. Time and trial with the modern means of manufacture will eventually bring weight and power to their respective limits in the later vehicle for strength and speed. The enthusiastic designer of automobiles may be led to ignore or forget precisely what is really needed, and purchasers may not realize exactly what they want. We want, perhaps, least of all for a pleasure carriage , a racing machine. Speed records will never establish permanently any type of vehicle or motor.
The typical horse, that has been such a valued helpmate of man, is not the racehorse. Neither is the making of long runs over rough roads the thing alone to be kept in sight in designing the vehicle. Thousands of horses, especially around our cities, never go more than ten miles from home, and never see a piece of rough road. Let the roads, to some extent at least, be smooth for the vehicle, and let not all the concessions be made by it. Let us first try to produce serviceable, ever-ready and easily-managed automobile vehicles that will run upon good roads without costing too much, either at first or for repairs, and let us use them and find pleasure and comfort and convenience in them upon our good roads and for comparatively short runs, and when this service is fully established improvements will follow rapidly, until we will be able to go everywhere and do everything with them. The roads will be smoothing themselves to entice the automobile farther and farther from home, until it becomes ubiquitous.
We may expect progress in the development of the automobile in several directions at once. We may build the highest types of pleasure vehicles first, for wealth and leisure to enjoy, the racer for the sporting community and from that we may meet the larger service of the more numerous classes, with the motor bicycle and tricycle; while, on the other hand, we may speed up and lighten the traction engine, transforming it successively into the autotruck and the delivery wagon, until the developing types shall meet and fully cover all requirements.