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Early automobile - Btv1b84333426-p023 (before 1920)

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Early automobile - Btv1b84333426-p023 (before 1920)

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[Collection Jules Beau. Photographie sportive] : T. 15. Année 1901 / Jules Beau : F. 10. [Salon de l Automobile, du cycle et des sports, 25 janvier - 10 février 1901];

The automobile was first invented and perfected in Germany and France in the late 1890s. Americans quickly came to dominate the automotive industry after WWI. Throughout this initial era, the development of automotive technology was rapid. Hundreds of small manufacturers competing to gain the world's attention. Key developments included the electric ignition system, independent suspension, and four-wheel brakes. Transmissions and throttle controls were widely adopted and safety glass also made its debut. Henry Ford perfected mass-production techniques, and Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler emerged as the “Big Three” auto companies by the 1920s. Car manufacturers received enormous orders from the military during World War II, and afterward automobile production in the United States, Europe, and Japan soared.

The history of the automobile started with the invention of the steam engine. Ferdinand Verbiest, a member of a Jesuit mission in China, built a steam-powered small-scale vehicle around 1672. The first automobile suitable for use on existing wagon roads in the US was a steam-powered vehicle invented in 1871 by Dr. J.W. Carhart, a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, in Racine, Wisconsin. About 1870, in Vienna, Austria (then the Austro-Hungarian Empire), inventor Siegfried Marcus put a liquid-fueled internal combustion engine on a simple handcart which made him the first man to propel a vehicle by means of gasoline. On January 29, 1886, Carl Benz applied for a patent for his “vehicle powered by a gas [combustion] engine.” By the 1890s, Europeans were buying and driving cars made by Benz, Daimler, Panhard, and others, and Americans were buying and driving cars made by Duryea, Haynes, Winton, and others. In the early morning of June 4, 1896, Henry Ford made his first trial run in a small, four-wheeled vehicle he called a "Quadricycle". Automobiles before the 1910s were, unreliable and expensive. The original cost of the Benz automobile in 1886 was 600 imperial German marks, approximately 150 US dollars (equivalent to $4,524 in 2021). In 1900 a car, then hand-made, cost over $1,000. Ford's Model T was the earliest reliable vehicle that most people could actually afford. Henry Ford's original Model-T, introduced in 1908, cost $850 but by 1925, the Model T price was $260 ($3,837 today).

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1901
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Bibliothèque nationale de France
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