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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of September 25, 1998

This week, facts about... Henry Ford built a lot of cars for America, but he didn’t build the first. That honor goes to Charles and Frank Duryea. 105 years ago this month , brothers put the country’s first gasoline-powered automobile on the road, in Springfield, Massachusetts.


CURWOOD: Henry Ford built a lot of cars for America, but he didn't build the first. That honor goes to Charles and Frank Duryea. A hundred and five years ago this month, the brothers put the country's first gasoline-powered automobile on the road in Springfield, Massachusetts. Their horseless carriage weighed 700 pounds. Its 6-horsepower engine had a top speed of 20 miles an hour. That was fast enough to win the country's first automobile race held 2 years later on the shores of Lake Michigan. By 1896, the brothers had started the Duryea Motor Wagon Company and sold 13 of their automobiles at around $1,500 apiece. An ad for the vehicle touted its practicality, quote, "on all roads over which common traffic passes." Today, though, that claim might be misleading. A hundred years after the Duryeas first got auto wheels rolling, commuters fed up with traffic gridlock in Lisbon, Portugal, decided to highlight the shortcomings of the car. So, they held a race between a Ferrari and a burro on a 1-1/2 mile stretch of heavily-traveled highway. The burro won with 4 minutes to spare. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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