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White steam automobile engine
Catalog #: 312,596, Accession #: 163,014
Currently on display
From the Smithsonian Collection
The White Sewing Machine Company, was founded in Massachussets in 1858, but moved by the founder, Thomas H. White to Cleveland, Ohio in 1866. The company began making steam powered automobiles in 1900. Cleveland, Ohio 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 were a popular brand of steam car. The White Sewing Machine Company produced a lot more than sewing machines and cars: in 1901, they also manufactured, among other things, bicycles, roller skates, phonographs, screw machines, and kerosene lamps. Thomas'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.
Physical Description
artifact. 30" H x 18" W x 19" D; 2 cyl. compound, model 00. 20 horse power engine. Mounted on a wooden base.
Details
Date Made:
1910
Dates Used:
1900 - 1911
Locations:
Ohio
Note:
Cleveland
Credit:
Gift of B. W. Laws
History
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 combusion 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.
Related People, Places, and Events
Manufacturer
Thomas H. White
Founder of the White Sewing Machine Company, based in Cleveland, Ohio, that began to make automobiles with steam engines in 1900.

Inventor
Rollin Henry White
Son of sewing machine manufacturer Thomas H. White, and inventor of a semi-flash boiler, used in White Steam Engines, as well as designer of the early White Steamers. Rollin White was also an avid racer: he won a ten-mile race at in a Steamer at Detroit's Fair Grounds in 1901 and, in 1902, he drove a specially designed racing car in the Glenville Track in Cleveland. White Steamers also took part, very sucessfully, in endurance tests of the day.

Manufacturer
Windsor White
Son of sewing machine manufacturer Thomas H. White, Windsor became president of the White Company when it split from its parent the White Sewing Machine Company in 1906.

Manufacturer
Walter White
Youngest son of sewing machine manufacturer Thomas H. White, Walter became vice president of the White Company when it split from its parent the White Sewing Machine Company in 1906. He became president of the White Motor Company in 1921, and died in a traffic accident in 1929.

Donor
B. W. Laws
Washington, D.C. resident at time of donation in 1943

Place of Manufacture
Cleveland, Ohio
One of a number of early automakers who were centered in the Cleveland, Ohio, area. Others included the Winton Motor Car Company, The Cleveland Motor Car Company, and the Peerless Motor Car Company.

Place of Use
Washington, D.C.


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