Cars today are very common

Cars today are very common but about 200 years ago they were thought to be just some kind of crazy invention. The origin of the automobile can be traced back to Europe, but it became a major form of transportation in the United States. Most European cars were hand made, and they were very expensive so not that many people could afford to buy the cars.

Nicolas Joseph Cugnot a French military engineer built the first steam car or a self propelled vehicle in 1769. One was designed to carry passengers, while the other was a three-wheeled steam tractor for hauling very heavy artillery.

In 1801 and 1803 another inventor Richard Trevithick of the United Kingdom demonstrated four-wheeled steam propelled vehicles to carry passengers. Unfortunately, he lacked the money to continue his work in the United States.

In 1805 an inventor named Oliver Evans demonstrated a steam operated dredge, which was mounted on a boat. He built the dredge to deepen and clean the Philadelphia waterfront. Evans put wheels on the boat and drove it. This machine weighed about 18 tons.

During the 1860’s another American inventor Sylvester H. Roper developed a much smaller steam operated vehicle. This vehicle looked similar to present day vehicles. This attracted a lot of public attention and was even displayed in a circus.

Steam cars had many disadvantages. In the beginning, it took a very long time for the fire to heat the boiler. This was bad because you would have to wait around a long time and by the time it heated up you could have walked to the place you wanted to go. The inventors solved that problem, but many others remained. The steam engines had to be small to be practical for cars, so they had to be high pressured engines to produce the required power. However, such engines cost much to build and maintain.

Numerous attempts in the United Kingdom to promote the use and development of steam cars failed because of the competition from railroad and stagecoach companies. Early steam cars damaged roads and sometimes even blew up. They also made a terrible noise, dirtied the air, smoked, and frightened horses (which were the main mode of transportation at the time).

In 1865 the Red Flag Law ended further development of automobiles in the United Kingdom for about thirty years. Under this law the few steam cars could not go any faster than four miles an hour in the country, and two miles per hour in town. Also to warn of its approach, a signalman had to walk ahead of the vehicle, by swinging a red flag by day and red lantern by night. And the steam powered car gradually disappeared. In 1924, the Stanley brother’s (the brothers who made the famous Stanley Steamer Company) company one of the last steam car manufacturers went bankrupt.

The electric car was first invented around 1891. William Morrison built the first successful American electric cars. They were powered by batteries from under. The seat they were quiet and easy to operate thus they quickly became popular.

But the batteries limited to how far they could go. Few electric cars could travel faster than twenty miles per hour and the batteries had to be recharged every 50 miles.

The gasoline car the automobile as we know it today resulted from the development of the internal combustion engine Jean Joseph Etienne Lenoir a Belgian living in France, patented the first commercially successful internal combustion engine in 1860. It burned coke oven gas(a gas that was usually used to heat ovens) and was noisy and inefficient. He still sold several hundred engines, which powered printing presses, lathes, and water pumps. He also installed one in a crude motorcar.

In 1885 Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz, two Germans working separately developed the first successful 4 stroke gasoline engine. Their engines led to the development of the engines used in cars today. Many early European manufacturers turned out cars based on Daimler’s and Benz’s work and patents. In 1891 a French company Panhard et Levassor created a basic design that remained largely unchanged for nearly 100 years.

The firm placed a Daimler engine in to the front of the car and used a revolving chain to transfer powers into the rear wheels. Most cars had a front engine and rear wheel drive until the mid 1980’s when the front wheel drive became popular. A French rubber making firm Michelin, introduced the first tires filled with compressed air for use on cars in 1895 Michelin developed such pneumatic tires under license from a British manufacturer of bicycle tires.

Many people believe that the automobile became a practical means of transportation because of, first, the invention of the internal combustion engine and, second the development of the pneumatic tire. The birth of the automobile industry occurred in 1885, the year that Dailmer and Benz built their successful gasoline engines, until 1900 Europe led the world in automobile development and production.

Many present day European car companies began in the late 1800’s. For example, Peugeot, a French firm started to make automobiles in 1890. Another French company Renault began producing cars in 1898. Fiat of Italy dates from, 1899. France and Germany became the first large production centers.

The Duryea brother, Charles E and J Frank, built the first successful gasoline car in the United States. They drove the car on the streets of Springfield, Mass, in the years 1893 and 1894. The brothers founded the Duryea Motor Company, the first U.S firm.

The United States took the lead in car making form Europe because it had a larger potential market. In 1910, the United States population was 92 million people, compared, with about 65 million people in Germany, 41 million people in Britain, and 34 million people in France. Americans also enjoyed a higher income, and so more of them could afford to buy cars.

The discovery of huge oil fields in eastern Texas in 1901 helped to contribute to the rapid growth of the U.S Auto industry. The discovery caused a sharp drop in the price of gasoline, and plentiful, cheap fuel made cars relatively inexpensive to operate. Another factor aiding the U.S. auto industry was the application of mass-production techniques to the manufacture of automobiles.

Prior to 1900, carmakers had used skilled workers to assemble each automobile, but American manufacturers had been using mass-production techniques since the mid-1800’s to make such products as firearms and farm equipment, and it was inevitable that they would apply this process to car making.

Once established, mass production brought the price of U.S. cars down to a level that many people could afford. By the early 1900’s, a buyer in the United States could choose among a variety of cars costing less than $1,000, while elegant European models, most of which were still handcrafted, sold for more than $2,000 in U.S. dollars.


The history of cars has been through trial and error mostly and now cars are the most used transportation in the world. What at first was thought to be a just a crazy invention but now it is something almost everyone in the world has or uses today. Today the cars that we have pollute the environment around us and many people have noticed that and now the electric cars are making a comeback. We are not sure what the future of cars will be like but we will probably make some kind of car that will be user friendly, safe, reliable, and wont pollute the environment.

Personal Response

I like cars a lot and I liked doing a research paper on this. I’m surprised that there were so many inventions that were failures had much to do with cars today and that today’s cars were based on these old steam cars that were very bad. I hope to see that the cars in the future will be better than the ones that we have that pollute the environment and also ones that are safer.

These problems have been partially solved like using electric cars instead of using gas powered cars. And we have antilock brakes to stop faster but this won’t save you if you drive off a cliff. But in the future I’m positive that we will make some kind of car that doesn’t need tires it will hover above the ground and that way we wont run over small little animals that are everywhere on the street dead.