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James Frank Duryea

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James Frank Duryea

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Wikipedia: J. Frank Duryea

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Hometown: Springfield, Massachusetts, USA


The following section is an excerpt from Wikipedia's J. Frank Duryea page on 4 August 2019, text available via the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

James Frank Duryea (October 8, 1869 – February 15, 1967) and his brother Charles (1861–1938) invented the first gasoline-powered automobile in America.

The brothers were born in Illinois, Charles in Canton, Illinois, in 1861 and Frank in Wyoming, Illinois, in 1869. Both graduated from high school. Charles moved to Washington, D.C., to work in the bicycle business. Frank followed closely on his heels in 1888. Two more moves in as many years brought the Duryea brothers to Springfield, Massachusetts. Charles had already earned a reputation for unusual design elements in his "sylph" bicycle, with a smaller wheel in front and a steering lever on the sides of the seat. Said one colleague, "Charles, it's a freak."

The two brothers researched the internal combustion engine at the Springfield public library. Charles drew the designs and made the connection with their chief investor, Erwin Markham. Markham provided $1,000, which paid for space in an old machine shop, a collection of cast-off parts, including an old phaeton buggy, and Frank's $3-a-day salary. Charles went back to Illinois to follow other pursuits.

Frank worked ten hours a day to make Charles's design a reality. Over the course of four road tests, Frank changed those designs in significant ways. By trial-and-error, Frank worked out problems of ignition, carburetion, and transmission. He devised a method of muffling the engine's extreme noise with a wooden box. In January 1894 Frank made what he believed was his first successful road test.

A total of three times Erwin Markham agreed to provide money, but when it came time to put the vehicle in production he backed out. 175 other investors stepped forward to buy $100 shares. Frank was awarded 160 shares, and Charles was given 320. The Duryea Motor Wagon Company was established in 1895. was incorporated in September 1895, two months before the Chicago Times-Herald race.


DateDocument Name & DetailsDocuments
31 March 1896Engine or Motor.
United States Patent US 557,496
James Frank Duryea

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