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
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
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
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.