Friday, January 25, 2013

25 January 1913 “First Sedan Style Car, Electric Cars, the Model T, and William M. Burton Cracks Petroleum for Standard Oil”

 car3 This year, 1913, Hudson car company introduced the first Sedan style cars. That is a car with distinct motor, passenger, and storage areas and looked less and less like a carriage with no horses.

“The Hudson Motor Car Company was started in early 1909 by a group of Detroit businessmen headed by Roy Chapin. Chapin had previously worked with Ransom E. Olds (of Oldsmobile and REO fame) and had decided to produce an automobile that could be sold for under $1,000. Since this group was funded primarily by department store owner Joseph L. Hudson, the Hudson Motor Car Company was born. The first car, the Hudson Twenty was one of the first moderately priced cars in America and was very successful, with over 4000 produced in the first year. The company grew quickly thanks to several innovations like the first “idiot lights” rather than gauges to warn of oil pressure or generator issues. They were also the first to introduce a balanced crankshaft which allowed the Hudson engine to run smoothly at much higher RPM’s than their competitors. This rapid company growth also saw the Hudson price increase and Roy Chapin, realizing that they were straying from the formula that had brought them success, started the Essex Motor company in the late teens as a subsidiary of Hudson to provide a lower price alternative to the Hudson.”

This Hudson would be the last year they offered a 4 cylinder engine and would,starting next year 1914, begin the 6 cylinder. This car was an internal combustion engine as well.

In fact, in 1913 most cars were Electric. Most people actually preferred the electric cars as they were easy to operate (no cranking, and less parts such as no shifting gears) and they did not smell. In many cases they were preferred by ladies as they were thought to be more refined and generally more safe.

Here is Henry Ford and Edison with an electric car from this year, 1913.


Here are a few ads one would see this year in various periodicals.


This interesting article talks about a car going 104 miles, in bad roads then, as well, the did not have smooth interestate paved highways then, on one charge! (You can click on image to enlarge and read)


I had forgot that during my brief time in 1933 I stumbled upon electric cars. I had let it slip from my conscious that we had, indeed, rather reliable electric cars longer than we had gas driven.

And don’t think they were simply low powered compared to the gasoline engine, for their were also heavy duty pulling and carrying trucks as well. Here we see an ad for such an electric truck and that the prices are also going down.


The cost of cars were still such that they were mainly the province of the wealthy but the middle and upper middle classes were more likely to begin to afford them this year. A car could run from around $600 to $3000 depending on the make and model. Adjusted for inflation today that would run you around $14,000 to $70,000. Oddly enough that seems to be similar to car prices today for new cars. Yet, in the 20’s and into the 1950’s car prices were greatly reduced and even working class families in the 1920’s had no problem owning a car.

Henry Ford’s Model T was, however, a more affordable car. And his cars continued to go down in price as the years lead into and past WWI. Here is the assembly line in a Model T plant in 1913.fordassemplyline1913

By 1914, the assembly process for the Model T had been so streamlined it took only 93 minutes to assemble a car. That year Ford produced more cars than all other automakers combined. The Model T was a great commercial success, and by the time Henry made his 10 millionth car, 50 percent of all cars in the world were Fords. It was so successful that Ford did not purchase any advertising between 1917 and 1923; more than 15 million Model Ts were manufactured, reaching a rate of 9,000 to 10,000 cars a day in 1925, or 2 million annually, more than any other model of its day, at a price of just $240. Model T production was finally surpassed by the Volkswagen Beetle on February 17, 1972.

Henry Ford’s approach to auto making was getting right, making a reliable affordable car and sticking with it. However, the other car companies began to offer more color options, different seating and other ‘extras’ while simultaneously building cars to not be as reliable and having more ‘bells an whistles’ than practicality.

1913modelt Ford’s Model T was so well built and even used some innovative technology such as its use of vanadium steel alloy. Though Ford no longer makes parts for the Model T, many private makers still do to this day, as these cars continue to run and run and many owners simply replace parts to keep them on the road. A Model T in 1913 had dropped to $550 from it’s 1909 price of $850. By the 1920’s it had fallen to $260 (adjusted for inflation in the 1920s that would be similar to $3,400. We, unfortunately, have no similarly priced new cars in today’s market.)


mburton Now, concerning gasoline, this year, 1913, on the 7th William Burton, a scientist and vice president of Standard Oil’s Indiana Refinery, patented a process for Cracking petroleum. Prior to this the production of gasoline was very inefficient. Only one fourth of crude oil could be turned into gasoline using the traditional heating method. That made the price too high.

The process he found used both high heat and high pressure which operated at 700–750 °F (371–399 °C) and an absolute pressure of 90 psi (620 kPa)This was not completely well received and one local reporter remarked, “Burton wants to blow the whole state of Indiana into Lake Michigan.”

Here I am only just beginning 1913 and I wonder what lays ahead. I recall in 1933 the similarities in some things became to heavy and insufferable for me to go on. Some of the mistakes and the parallels to last year were so great it literally made me ill and I had to stop. Here I see this discussion of cracking in petroleum and I can’t help but think of today’s discussion of Fracking and Tar sands. How much will the past and present parallel one another. And can we, this year, perhaps learn some things that are in a way a crystal ball to what we may expect to see in our futures. And, further on, if these ‘past prophecies’ prove wrong, will we have the ability or wherewithal to change. Or even, really, the power to do so? I am not sure.

I well continue to look at basic history, politics, and invention this year as well as homemaking to see how far we have come and what improvements there truly are. I am getting rather excited at the prospect and a bit curious to see how greatly 2013 and 1913 may mirror one another.

Until next time, have a lovely day.


  1. I guess it truly does prove the adage, 'history is doomed to repeat itself.' The good thing we can take away is despite the bad stuff being repeated, the human race still exists and we have not blown the planet up. yet.


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