Automobile, full-size, steam car, 'Stanley Steamer', Model 740B, 20 hp, chassis No. 22367 made by Stanley Motor Carriage Co, Newton, Massachusetts, USA, 1921-1922, body No. 1277 made by Currier & Cameron, Amesbury, Massachusetts, USA, 1921-1922
This Stanley Steamer was built either late in 1921 or early in 1922 by Stanley Motor Carriage Co of Newton, Massachusetts, USA. As the name suggests, the Stanley Steamer is powered by steam, as opposed to other alternative power sources like internal combustion engines. Steam cars were popular in Australia in the first decade of the 20th century, but fell from favour before having a brief resurgence in the 1920s. It is estimated that in 2002 there were about 40 steam cars in Australia and most of them were Stanleys.
This Stanley steam car is interesting and unusual as it features aspects of 'bush plumbing' which indicate that the maintenance on the car was probably undertaken in isolation from other Stanley owners. The world's first steam car was built in France by Nicholas Cugnot between 1760 and 1770. Steam cars were later built in England, Germany and the United States. The Stanley Steamer was the most popular steam car. Motorists were impressed with their quiet running, power and acceleration, but they did not like the inconvenience of having to wait at least 20 minutes while a cold boiler built up a sufficient head of steam to get the car moving.
Up until 1908 there were more steam cars being produced than internal combustion engine cars, but they declined in popularity, not only because they were slow to start, but the Stanley Brothers were said to have refused to spend money on advertising. As a consequence, they had trouble competing with the petrol car companies, which did advertise. Also, rumours were spread by motorists that steam cars were "killing machines" and that if they were driven too hard they might explode. This was a gross misconception, but a powerful shock story. Furthermore, as cars with internal combustion engines gained the upper hand, garage staff serviced steam cars less frequently and found them more difficult to deal with. They saw steam car boilers as an unnecessary complication because they needed regular maintenance to prevent the accumulation of encrusted salt and dirt.
Bentley, John, "The Stanley 1896-1925" in "Oldtime Steam Cars", Arco Publishing Company, Inc. New York. 1953, p. 26-45.
Bush, Lt. Commander P.R.B., R.N. (Retd), "Steam Up-Restoring a Stanley Steamer" in "The Veteran and Vintage Magazine", Vol. 9, No.11, July 1965, p.344-346.
Georgano G.N., "The Complete Encyclopedia of Motorcars 1885-1968", Ebury Press, London, 1968, p.533-534.
"Horses Objected to Early Steam Cars Using Their Water-Troughs - The Stanley Steamer Story" in "Daily Mirror", Friday, 10th June, 1960 p.17
"Instructions for-the Care and Operation of the Stanley Car", Stanley Motor Carriage Company, Newton, Massachusetts, U.S.A., (n.d.)
Lloyd W.S., "1922 Stanley Again Rejuvenated", in "Light Steam Power", Vol. XXV No.4, p.211-214.
Meldt. P.M., "Latest Stanley Chassis Incorporates Numerous Refinement", in "Automotive Industries", 15th March, 1923, p. 617-622.
"The Stanley Steamer on the Road", in "The Autocar," 9th April, 921, p. 637
Curator, Science & Industry
Francis E and Freeland O Stanley were identical twins born at Kingfieid, Maine, U.S.A. on the 1st June, 1849. "F.E." began his career as a school teacher and portrait painter, while "F.O." spent his time making violins and produced the first commercially made violins in the United States. Soon "F.E." found there was more money to be had in painting rather than teaching so he set up his own studio. Later, he bought a textbook on photography and was eventually able to offer his clients portraits in oil or bromide. He undertook experiments in producing lower cost, more efficient photographic dry plate negatives and together with his brother "F.O." began the Stanley Dry Plate Co. This business did very well and was later bought by Eastman Kodak.
In 1896 the Stanley brothers attended the Brockton Fair, where they saw a French steam car on display. This vehicle was a disappointment and only just managed to get around. The Stanley brothers were determined they could improve on this steam car even though they knew nothing about steam engineering. They set about rectifying this by purchasing every book on the subject and within a year were experts.
They designed a simple kerosene-burning steam engine and had the engine built by the Mason Regulator Company and the boiler by the Robert Iron Works. These were fitted to a sturdy four-wheeled horse carriage, and the car was ready for its first drive in September 1897. The car performed well, though horses on the road were understandably frightened when they saw the horseless carriage gliding quietly down the road.
A professor of psychology had apparently said that the mental reaction of a horse upon seeing a "horseless carriage" must have been similar to a human's reaction upon seeing a pair of trousers walking down the street by themselves without anyone inside.
Apparently some horses would not drink from the same water trough which had been used to replenish the water tank of a Stanley. Others would not drink while the rubber hose from the suction pump on the steam car was in the trough.
Because of the vehicle's silence, the Stanleys had to fit their steam car with some sort of warning device. At first a marine siren was used which "blasted" unwary pedestrians. Later, they replaced the siren with a locomotive whistle which caused them much delight to use while negotiating railway crossings.
Another amusing incident, as retold by one of the Stanleys, occurred when their steam car was taken through a toll bridge. The toll gate keeper was asleep in front of his door. Resisting the temptation to drive past without paying the toll, one of the Stanleys stopped and woke the toll keeper with the question, "Have you seen our horse anywhere?". With a very courteous but sleepy look at the "horseless carriage" standing before him the man replied "I'm sorry Sir, I haven't seen your horse, but if there is anything I can do to help you find him, I'd be glad to".
In October 1898, the first automobile show to be held in the New England area was held in Boston, U.S.A. Several cars were on display including a De Dion from Paris, an electric car and a steam car. The cars were tested for speed and hill climbing on a specially prepared ground. Although their steam car was not displayed at the show, the Stanleys were asked to participate in the trials and easily established a new world speed record. The car proved so impressive and popular that over 200 orders were received for it. It was only then that the Stanleys decided to commercialise their car, which had previously only been a hobby. They purchased an old bicycle factory next door to their dry plate factory and began production under the name of the Stanley Manufacturing Co. Lawrence, Mass. Here they were credited with being the world's first manufacturers of automobiles in commercial quantities. The following year the Stanleys sold their factory, patents and manufacturing rights to their steam car for a quarter of a million U.S. dollars to A.L. Barber and J.B. Walker, who produced it as the Locomobile and Mobile respectively. A year later the Locomobile Company moved to Bridgeport, Connecticut, abandoned the manufacture of steam cars and began the manufacture of gasoline cars.
In May 1901, the Stanleys bought back their old factory and the patents for US$20,000 and the Stanley Motor Carriage Co. of Newton came into being. A year later they sold the White Company the right to use two of their patents for US$15,000. Between 1899 and 1901 the Stanleys had redesigned their steam car and without advertising were overwhelmed with orders. A simple non-condensing engine was used, directly driving the rear axle. The boiler was mounted at the front, frames were of wood and steering was by tiller. By 1904 Stanleys were selling steadily at a rate of 1,000 a year, even though steamers had already lost the commercial battle with their gasoline rivals.
The Stanleys became interested in competitive racing and in 1906 built a steam racer which, in 1906, while driven by Fred Marriott achieved a speed of 127.66 miles per hour at Ormond Beach in Florida, being the first machine ever to propel a human at over 2 miles per minute.
In 1906 the stock class Stanley Steamers met with equal success in the Model H Gentlemen's Speedy Roadster, claiming the title of the Fastest Stock Car in the World with a speed of 68.18 mph.
By 1913 Stanley cars featured electric headlights, and 1915 saw the introduction of a model with steel framed and V-shaped frontal condensers on a 10 ft l0 inch wheelbase chassis which lent itself to 7-seater coachwork. However, the advent of Cadillac's electric self-starter in 1912 had signalled the end of the steamer with its need for a long warm-up period from dead cold.
In 1917, the Stanley brothers retired and the business was re-organised and taken over by a new group, with Prescott Warren as president. "F.E." only survived his retirement for 14 months, as he was involved in an automobile accident while driving one of his own cars and died on the 21st July, 1918, aged 70.
During the remaining years of active production life the Stanley Steamer continued to use a time-tried horizontal, two-cylinder, double acting engine.
In 1920 the Model 735 Stanley resembled a conventional petrol car in outward appearance, with a flat radiator disguising the condenser and a boiler under the bonnet. The Museum's Stanley steam car comes from this period. Acceleration was well above par for the day and the car would cruise at 45 mph (72 km/h). With the cost around $2,600, sales were low and averaged about 600 per annum. By this time the steam car lovers were shrinking into a minor group of "enthusiasts".
By March 1923, the company had been placed in the hands of a receiver and lingered on until February 1924, when S.L.C. Cox of the Steam Vehicle Corporation of America made a cash offer of $500,000 for the plant and assets of the Stanley firm. Production resumed in 1925 with a model featuring hydraulic front wheel brakes and balloon tyres. It was exhibited at the New York and Chicago International Shows and drew polite attention and curious admiration but few buyers. After this, no other model was ever produced.
In 1934, an attempt was made to re-float the company (amidst much press attention) as the New Stanley Steam Motor Corporation, for the production of heavy duty buses and trucks. However, nothing came of this. The last news to hit the press, in connection with the now household name of "Stanley" was the death of "F.O." Stanley in October 1940, aged 91.
Stanley steam cars were imported into Australia fully assembled from the Stanley Motor Carriage Company, Newton, Massachusetts, USA, except for the hood, steering wheel, windscreen and road-wheels which were removed and packed in the same large crate as the car.
The original owner of this Stanley steam car was Mr H.F. Slocombe, an engineer specialising in steam, gas, and oil engines and boilers of 14 Short Street and 36 Whistler Street, Manly. It is believed to have been purchased new in 1922, one of the last two imported into Sydney. During the Second World War Slocombe modified the car to use timber as the fuel rather than kerosene, due to the fuel rationing at the time. He installed a temporary smoke stack in the bonnet of the car. (A patch covering the hole is still visible under the bonnet.) During this time the Stanley was fitted with a new boiler made by Bauldwin's of Castle Hill. This varied from the original in having the number of fire tubes reduced from 640 to 248 and the diameter of the tubes increased from 33/64 inch to 3/4 inch.
In about 1958 the car was purchased by George Green who from the mid 1950s collected some 100 vintage and veteran cars which he displayed at Green's Motorcade Museum at Leppington, NSW, from 1974. In 1971 Green swapped the Stanley for a 1904 Vauxhall which belonged to Allan F. Higgisson of 22 Banner Street, O'Connor, ACT. Higgisson was keen to work on the Stanley, while Green wanted to restore a veteran car he could enter in the annual London to Brighton car rally. It was an unwritten agreement that should Higgisson tire of restoring the Stanley it would be returned to Green.
The Stanley was in operating condition when received by Higgisson but was suffering from '50 years of bush plumbing' as he put it. Higgisson replaced the lubricating, water and kerosene systems and tested the boiler up to 700 pounds per square inch pressure. The burner had burnt out and the bottom was replaced with stainless steel. The fire heating tube was replaced, boiler re-insulated with asbestos and recessed in stainless steel, and the main steam line to the engine was replaced. After this work had been completed the Stanley ran reasonably well but used large quantities of water and ran out of steam. It was realised that the engine needed a complete overhaul that could no be undertaken by Higgisson, so the car was returned to Green in Sydney.
The car was then worked on for Green by Terry Cook. The engine was overhauled by Barry Perdriau of Ultimo, and the pistons, rings, valves and valve rods were all ground and hard faced, and the piston bearings were honed and adjusted. The car was repainted in parts including the bonnet and valences in the original colour of International Harvester green. After repainting a fire occurred in the boiler caused by the pilot light going out without the driver being aware of it. Consequently, the boiler filled with petrol causing it to briefly ignite, which then blistered the paint on the bonnet. As a safety precaution against further fires, an LPG line was rigged which ran from inside the running board tool box to fuel the pilot light.
After the death of George Green on 22 July 1982, the vehicles at his museum were put to auction by F.R. Strange Pty Ltd of 614-8 Botany Road, Alexandria. The Stanley steam car was listed as Lot V9 and was purchased by this Museum on Saturday 23 October 1983.