Charles Duryea
Charles Edgar Duryea was the engineer of the first-ever working American gasoline-powered car. He was born near Canton, Illinois
Canton, Illinois
Canton is the largest city in Fulton County, Illinois in the United States. The population was 18,288 as of the 2000 Census. The Canton Micropolitan Statistical Area covers all of Fulton County; it is in turn part of the wider Peoria-Canton, IL Combined Statistical Area .-Geography:Canton is...

, the son of George Washington Duryea and Louisa Melvina Turner and died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia is the largest city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the county seat of Philadelphia County, with which it is coterminous. The city is located in the Northeastern United States along the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers. It is the fifth-most-populous city in the United States,...

, but spent most of his life working in Springfield, Massachusetts
Springfield, Massachusetts
Springfield is the most populous city in Western New England, and the seat of Hampden County, Massachusetts, United States. Springfield sits on the eastern bank of the Connecticut River near its confluence with three rivers; the western Westfield River, the eastern Chicopee River, and the eastern...

. It was in Springfield that Charles and his brother, Frank, produced and road-tested America's first gasoline-powered car.


Charles Duryea and his brother Frank
J. Frank Duryea
James Frank Duryea , along with his brother Charles Duryea, invented and built the first American, road-tested gasoline-fueled automobile in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1892-1893...

 (1869–1967) were initially bicycle makers in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, but later became world-renowned as the first American gasoline-powered car manufacturers, headquartered in Springfield, Massachusetts
Springfield, Massachusetts
Springfield is the most populous city in Western New England, and the seat of Hampden County, Massachusetts, United States. Springfield sits on the eastern bank of the Connecticut River near its confluence with three rivers; the western Westfield River, the eastern Chicopee River, and the eastern...

. Generally speaking, Charles engineered the automobiles, while Frank built tested and raced them.

Tests of the first, gasoline-powered automobile: September 20 and November 10, 1893

On September 20, 1893, the Duryea Brothers road-tested the first-ever, working American gasoline
Gasoline , or petrol , is a toxic, translucent, petroleum-derived liquid that is primarily used as a fuel in internal combustion engines. It consists mostly of organic compounds obtained by the fractional distillation of petroleum, enhanced with a variety of additives. Some gasolines also contain...

-powered automobile
An automobile, autocar, motor car or car is a wheeled motor vehicle used for transporting passengers, which also carries its own engine or motor...

 in a portion of Springfield, Massachusetts that is now located in the City of Chicopee, Massachusetts
Chicopee, Massachusetts
Chicopee is a city located on the Connecticut River in Hampden County, Massachusetts, United States of America. It is part of the Springfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 55,298, making it the second largest city in...

. The Duryea's "motor wagon" was a used horse drawn buggy that the brothers had purchased for $70 and into which they had installed a 4 HP, single cylinder gasoline engine. The car (buggy) had a friction transmission, spray carburetor and low tension ignition. Frank Duryea test drove it again on November 10 -- this time in a prominent location: past their garage at 47 Taylor Street in Springfield. The next day it was reported by The Republican newspaper with great fanfare.

This particular car was put into storage in 1894 and stayed there until 1920, when it was rescued by Inglis M. Uppercu and presented to the United States National Museum.

The Duryea Motor Wagon Company

On November 28, 1895 in Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

, their vehicle, driven by brother Frank, had won America's first car race
Chicago Times-Herald race
The Chicago Times-Herald race was the first automobile race held in the United States. Sponsored by the Chicago Times-Herald, the race was held in Chicago in 1895 between six cars and won by Charles Duryea's Motorized Wagon...

. It ran to Evanston, Illinois
Evanston, Illinois
Evanston is a suburban municipality in Cook County, Illinois 12 miles north of downtown Chicago, bordering Chicago to the south, Skokie to the west, and Wilmette to the north, with an estimated population of 74,360 as of 2003. It is one of the North Shore communities that adjoin Lake Michigan...

 and back. The only other finisher was one of three Benz cars mostly made in Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

. After Frank won, demand grew for the Duryea Motor Wagon
Duryea Motor Wagon
The Duryea Motor Wagon was among the first standardized automobiles and among the first powered by gasoline. Fifteen Motor Wagons were built by the Duryea Motor Wagon Company company of Chicopee, Massachusetts, between 1893 and 1896....

. In 1896, the Duryea Brothers produced 13 cars by hand – in their garage at 47 Taylor Street – and thus Duryea became the first-ever commercially produced vehicle, and also the largest automobile factory in the United States. For the history of the company and its cars, see Duryea Motor Wagon Company
Duryea Motor Wagon Company
The Duryea Motor Wagon Company, established in 1895, was one of the first American firms to build gasoline automobiles.Founded by Charles Duryea and his brother Frank, they built a one-cylinder "Ladies Phaeton", first demonstrated on September 21, 1893 in Springfield, Massachusetts, on Taylor...


Charles Duryea sought out investors and buyers while his brother, Frank Duryea, primarily handled the mechanical side of the business.

A Duryea car was involved in the world's first known auto accident.
New York City motorist Henry Wells hit a bicyclist with his new Duryea. The rider suffered a broken leg, Wells spent a night in jail and the nation's first traffic accident was recorded. Due to low production and extraordinarily pricey cars, e.g. in 1913, George Vanderbilt purchased and drove a Stevens-Duryea, but was one of few people in the United States who could afford one. His 1913 Duryea is Vanderbilt's only original car kept at his Biltmore Estate
Biltmore Estate
Biltmore House is a Châteauesque-styled mansion near Asheville, North Carolina, built by George Washington Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895. It is the largest privately-owned home in the United States, at and featuring 250 rooms...


Duryea ceased manufacturing during the 1920s.

Charles Duryea died in Philadelphia in 1938.

External links

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