White Automobile Steam Engine

White Automobile Steam Engine

The White Sewing Machine Company of Cleveland, Ohio, began making steam powered automobiles in 1900. Cleveland was a center of early American automobile production. Other manufacturers in the city included the Winton Motor Car Company, The Cleveland Motor Car Company, and the Peerless Motor Car Company. White Steamers became a popular brand of steam car. Founder Thomas White’s sons Rollin, Windsor, and Walter, were all auto enthusiasts, and helped get the company into the automobile industry.
In November 1906, the automaking part of the business split off into a separate company, named the White Company. After 1911, the company stopped making Steamers and focused on producing gasoline driven engines. Over the course of their steam-making career, the company produced 9,122 White Steamers. In 1918, the company stopped making cars (except if they were specially ordered) and concentrated on making trucks. It still makes trucks and buses.
The first auto manufacturers were bicycle and carriage makers, metalworkers, and machinists. In the 1900s and 1910s, hundreds of new companies created cars of varying price and quality in limited numbers. Early automobiles—reflecting the fluid state of the emerging industry—were built with steam, electric, or internal combustion engines. Still, between the 1890s and 1920s, a standard automotive design emerged out of the competition between steam, electric, and internal-combustion cars. Manufacturers chose engines, drive trains, and accessories that they thought would attract buyers or make cars more powerful, cheaper, or easier to operate. The front-engine, shaft-driven internal-combustion car appeared by 1901 and became the norm, particularly after the Ford Motor Company's Model T grabbed a large part of the market share. Steam cars and electric cars fell out of favor and mostly disappeared from the market in the 1920s.
Currently not on view
Object Name
engine, steam automobile
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
See more items in
Work and Industry: Transportation, Road
America on the Move
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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