The Cruban Machine & Steel Corporation's history is yet to be written. CRUBAN initially started as the CRU Patents Corporation of NY, with "CRU" apparently standing for the initials of Charles R. Uebelmesser.
Uebelmesser and his associate, William Wenderhold, assigned to this company twenty-one patents dealing with film projection equipment (projectors, lamps, etc.) between 1920 and 1922. Sometime after 1922, they joined forces with Edwin & Alfred Banzhaf - the "BAN" in CRUBAN probably comes from Banzhaf - and began producing steam car components.
The Banzhaf brothers and Wenderhold were all of German descent, but were US-born citizens. Uebelmesser was a German national, and thus even though he appears to be the company's chief engineer, many of the earlier firm's patents were issued to Wenderhold, who was a US citizen. During the war, the intellectual property of Germans (and other Axis nationals) could be confiscated under the Alien Property Act; hence Uebelmesser probably adopted a low-profile during the war years.
Uebelmesser & Wenderhold received 15 steam-related patents between 1925-1932. Uebelmesser and both of the Banzhaf brothers died between 1931-1932, which apparently lead to the demise of the company.
CRUBAN apparently had high hopes and expectations for its Empire Steam Car, but many former Stanley dealers grew exasperated waiting for it. One of whom was Frank Duveneck, a San Francisco Stanley dealer, who wrote to his New Zealand friend, Hector Halhead "Steam" Stewart, in September 1926 that Cruban was trying to get his car business on the road.
"Some of our [Stanley] owners have recently been circularized by Cruban stating that they are ready to bring out the ideal steam car and quoting prices of $2,650 for the open and about $3,000 for the closed car. I can't quite make out what he is after as he has not seen fit to send me one. I have a sort of feeling that he isn't really ready but is trying to get a list of prospects that he can go to some financier and borrow money. Uebelmesser has a whole lot to be said in his favor as to knowledge of the steam car but I think we should all do well to examine the management of the company if they build cars and before we put any money into it. They always have been that way and made independant [sic] sales when they could and cut prices. Of course I have never been Cruban's dealer although I have sold quite a lot of their stuff but I am certain that neither Cruban or anyone else will ever put over the steam car without a group of first class experienced dealers. Perhaps Uebelmesser does not write to me as he feels that I know he hasn't got a car."<sup></sup>
The Cruban Machine & Steel Company used postcards to advertise its products, as well as several brochures. The VSCM collection is arranged in chronological order. Karl Petersen has published some of these in The Steam Automobile. There are a number of patents associated with Cruban. The VSCM invites a motivated researcher to partner with it in gathering and publishing information on this firm.
For a wonderful description and superb photographs of an Empire (Cruban) burner, see Bob Wilhelm's web site.
Frank Duveneck to H. H. Stewart, September 22, 1926. This quote is drawn from Hoke, Donald R., Hector Halhead "Steam" Stewart: The History of Stanley Steam Cars in New Zealand and More, (Dallas, TX, The Virtual Steam Car Museum, Inc. 2016).
Petersen, Karl, "Cruban - Making the Stanley Practical," The Steam Automobile, ____________, pp. 16 - 20?. The January 1965 issue of The Steam Automobile featured a copy of the November 1923 brocure.
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