NotesFrancis 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 on seeing a "horseless carriage" must have been similar to a human's reaction on 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. of Lawrence, Massachusetts. 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 (205 kph) 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 with 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 in 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.