Steam Engines

Content Tools

Oskaloosa, Iowa

ONE HEARS MANY people making brags of 'knowing so-and-so who did this or that' and it is always way back before whatever it was under discussion came into prominence and, no doubt you have heard of many who had autos or other vehicles that ran under their own power before it was common for them to do so. Well, here is one that we claim as one of the first, and we have proof for this one.

We are proud to present to our readers an actual picture of the first automotive steam engine in America. Thanks to Carl, Charley and O. T. Hussey, sons of the inventor, William L. Hussey, this illustration and description has been made available to us. O. T. Hussey, who actually made the picture and information available, operated one of the leading garages in Dayton, Ohio.

Until 1876, all steam engines except railroad locomotives were stationary and were hauled from place to place by oxen, mules, or horses. Mr. Hussey, who was known throughout t countryside as an excellent mechanic and who had invented many far-advanced conveniences for himself and his neighbors, conceived the idea that if the engines own power were utilized properly it could be made to transport itself wherever needed.

So, with only the idea to guide him, he started to work on what proved to be a first in America.

Mr. Hussey lived in New Vienna, Ohio, and he had access to the B & O locomotive shop at Chillicothe. In 1881 he went there and was permitted to build his own engine, using the facilities of the shop. It took him two years to complete his traction engine and cost him $3,500.00 exclusive of his own labor.

His engine was chain driven and as the compensating or differential gear was unheard of at that time, a ratchet clutch was installed in each drive wheel.

The boiler was constructed with 200 one and one-quarter inch flues which enabled steam to be raised from cold water in 20 minutes. And, moreover, it worked!

Mr. Hussey started home from Chillicothe under his own power, so as to speak, and in spite of almost wrecking a large wooden bridge which was not built for the weight of his outfit, he reached New Vienna successfully.

He then drove the machine to a race track at Sabina, Ohio, and was checked by a stop watch which showed a speed of better than 15 miles per hour.

After these successful tryouts, Mr. Hussey went to Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Chicago, in efforts to interest some manufacturer in production. But, one and all, they told him he was too far ahead of his time. 'Too many horses, mules and oxen are easily available,' they said, 'preventing such a device from ever becoming practical'!

A scale model of this machine was on display in Mr. O. T. Hussey's garage at 425 S. Main Street, in Dayton, until his death a few months ago.