Kelsey Motor Company Radiator Emblem

Cadwaller (Carl) Kelsey built his first automobile in 1897, following up a year later with an “Autotri,” a three-wheeled car he built with his friend Sheldon Tilney. But it was his shaft-driven friction-transmission system that prompted him to found the Kelsey Motor Company in Newark, New Jersey in 1920. Instead of a clutch and gears, Kelsey automobiles had a friction wheel and friction disc, at low speeds the wheel grips the center of the disc, moving further away to the ends of the disc at high speeds. Kelsey cars were only produced between 1920 and 1924 before creditors took over. This shield-shaped emblem has central image of the friction drive’s discs on a red background. The center reads “Kelsey/Friction Drive” with “Newark” at the top and “U.S.A.” at the bottom.
Radiator emblems are small, colorful metal plates bearing an automobile manufacturer's name or logo that attached to the radiators grilles of early automobiles. Varying in shape and size, the emblems served as a small branding device, sometimes indicating the type of engine, place of manufacturing, or using an iconic image or catchy slogan to advertise their cars make and model. This emblem is part of the collection that was donated by Hubert G. Larson in 1964.
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accession number
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Credit Line
Hubert G. Larson
See more items in
Work and Industry: Transportation, Road
Radiator Emblems
Road Transportation
Road Transportation
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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