Webmaster's Apology: The Virtual Steam Car Museum is currently undergoing a major reconstruction. The Stanley Steam Car pages are in process (as are the White Steam Car pages), but are not up. Thank you for your patience!
Stanley Dry Plate Co., Newton, MA 1897 – 1899Stanley Manufacturing Co., Lawrence MA 1899 – 1901 Steam Vehicle Corporation of America, Newton, MA, Allentown, PA 1924 – 1926 Stanley Steamer, Inc. , Chicago, IL 1926 - 1930? First Day Covers
The Stanley twins, F. E. & F. O., were partners in a photographic dry plate business in Newton, where they produced their first light steam car in 1897. This proved a great success, over 200 being sold in the first year of production. In 1898 a Stanley was timed over a mile at Charles River Park at 27.40 mph.
Among the customers were A. L. Barber and J. B. Walker, who purchased the manufacturing rights of the vehicle, and produced it as the Locomobile and Mobile respectively. In 1899 some Stanleys were advertised by the The Locomobile Company of America under the name Stanley-Locomobile.
The Stanleys proceeded to evolve an entirely new design, which appeared in 1902 with a simple non-condensing engine, driving directly to the rear axle. The boiler was mounted at the front, frames were of wood, and steering was by tiller. Locomobile went over to gasoline cars at the end of 1903, but the Stanleys prospered, listing an 8 hp model at $750, and selling their cars to police and fire departments.
More powerful versions rated at 10 hp and 20 hp were available by 1904, and by 1906 the Stanley had assumed its characteristic appearance, with coffin-like hood concealing the boiler, and wheel steering. It could out accelerate gasoline cars, and that year Fred Marriott was timed at 127.66 mph on Daytona Beach with the streamlined Woggle-Bug. Marriott tried again the following year, but a spectacular crash at about 150 mph destroyed the car. Stanley's 1908 Gentleman's Speedy Roadster was capable of 60 mph, and could run over 50 miles on a filling of water.
The 1913 cars were electrically-lighted, and 1915 brought the introduction of steel framed and V-shaped front condensers on a 130" wheelbase chassis which lent itself to seven-passenger coachwork.
However, the advent of Cadillac's electric self-starter in 1912 had signaled the end of the steamer, with its need for a long warm-up from dead cold. The 1920 Model 735 Stanley resembled a conventional gasoline car in outward appearance with a flat radiator of typically American aspect, but the boiler was still under the hood, and the double-acting 2-cylinder engine still drove direct to the back axle. Acceleration was well above par for the standards o the day, and the car would cruise at 45 mph, with more available.
But at the $2,600 mark sales were low (about 600 a year), and the Stanley s had retired from the company during World War I. The firm was reorganized in 1924, and the last Stanleys had hydraulic front wheel brakes and balloon tires. An attempt was made to revive the name in 1935, but nothing came of this.
The best source of information is Kit Foster's exceptional book, The Stanley Steamer: America's Legendary Steam Car published by the Stanley Museum. This book belongs on every automobile enthusiast's bookshelf.