Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


THIS WEBSITE’S recent celebration of Cadillac featured an ad from Floyd Clymer’s Historical Motor Scrapbook. The same scrapbook is filled with treasures available to early automobilists.

This particular scrapbook focuses on the first two decades of automobilism, roughly 1902 to the early Twenties. Some ads are for familiar makes: Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Ford and the like. Other makes in the scrapbook are no longer in business, but may still ring a bell. Among them are Packard, Studebaker and Maxwell (comedian Jack Benny’s transport of choice).


The Maytag, 1910. This and other images from Floyd Clymer’s Historical Motor Scrapbook.

New to me was the Maytag, formerly the Mason: “This irresistible Car has Whipped them All in Climbing Hills, Endurance, all Displays of Power and Economy of Maintenance.” A bit of research revealed yet another feather in its cap: Fred Duesenberg was superintendent of the company for a short period.


The Lambert, c. 1910.

Another ad that caught my eye was for the Lambert Friction Drive Car: “No Fixed Speed. Any Speed Desired.” This one is a website friend, likely the earliest car with a continuously variable transmission.


Lateral adjustment of the driven disc’s contact point varied its spin.

What’s more, inventor John William Lambert, 1860 – 1952, devised the first gasoline-powered automobile in America. His 1891 effort beat the Duryea brothers by a year or two. They get more press because they actually sold a few cars and won the 1895 Chicago Times-Herald race, the first held in the U.S.

In the early days, the term “horseless carriage” was not a pejorative; neither was “motor-buggy.” Holsman, for instance, claimed to be the “Oldest Motor-Buggy Makers in America, 1902 – 1908.” (Alas, it was to go out of business in 1909.)


At left, a typical buggy of the era. At right, the Holsman Motor-Buggy.

Regardless of their propulsion, horse or otherwise, high-wheeled vehicles were appropriate for rudimentary roads of the era. The Holsman sold in considerable numbers, especially in the American Midwest. Its powertrain had a pair of opposed cylinders and a rope drive. What with brakes acting directly on the solid-rubber tires, fortunately the Holsman’s power was modest.


Seeking an optimal transmission? Diamond has a recommendation.

Frictional disc? Rope drive? Another way to transmit torque was a chain, trusted by those familiar with bicycles. With all the benefits of a Diamond chain, it’s surprising that automakers would choose inferior gears.


The Clymer Windshield Spotlight, 1922.

Clymer’s own company produced aftermarket mods. “Be sure to see this most beautiful, useful and unique spotlight,” read an ad for this spotlight operated through the windshield with ball-and-socket linkage. Also, concerning its non-appearance at the 1922 Chicago Show, the company notes, “Being too late to secure space at the show, we are displaying at the Greer Bldg—Just south of the Coliseum.”


A Jericho: The Perfect Motor Signal.

According to Joshua 6:1-27, the trumpets of his troops brought the walls of Jericho tumbling down. And, according Boston’s Randall-Faichney Co., the Jericho auto horn was the perfect motor signal. This foot-operated exhaust-driven device came in four sizes, priced at $7, $8, $9 or $10, each emitting a “loud, clear signal whose mellow tone ‘warns without offence.’ ”

I wonder: WWJD? What would Joshua drive? ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2015

2 comments on “CARS AND MODS—CIRCA 1910

  1. Frank Barrett
    December 10, 2015

    Floyd was an interesting guy. He grew up in Berthoud, a little town north of Denver (now the home of Jim Stranberg’s Bugatti restoration shop). As a teenager, he was selling cars, but after he moved to Denver and got involved with a dealership, he was prosecuted for some financial chicanery and moved to California. He was a great early PR guy (somewhere I have a photo of him with the then-governor of Colorado on a motorcycle emblazoned with his dealership signage).

  2. Bill Urban
    December 10, 2015

    Another good tidbit in this book is a side view photo of Selden’s 1877 “original internal combustion motor automobile.” The entire engine/transmission assembly is unsprung, mounted to the front axle. The assembly is turned 90 deg. toward the camera, and the caption claims reversing is achieved by turning it another 90 deg.!
    Obviously there were substantial adjustments to the patent application over the following 18 years, but it appears Henry was on to something.

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