The Locomobile Company of America

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In 1899 the Locomobile began as a steam-powered car. With inventor
and electric car manufacturer Andrew Riker’s development of a
new gasoline-powered engine for the company, Locomobile was soon one of the
most popular cars in the world.  The “Number 16” car pictured above
won the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup, clocking in at an astonishing 64.38
mph. Locomobile was called the “best built car in America.”

The Bridgeport, CT factory stood on the west side of the harbor, where oil
drums stand today. The factory lay in sight of the famous Seaside Park,
and Locomobile cars were often taken for fast drives on gravel pathways
that had been designed for stately horse drawn carriages.

The Locomobile had the distinction of being the first car not designed to
look like a ‘horse and buggy.’ Andrew Carnegie and Charlie Chaplin took
pride in owning one, and a young Walter Chrysler took apart and put
together a Locomobile to learn about cars. During World War I, the company
sold the Riker Truck to the British army, contributing more vehicles to
the war than any other American company.

The brand became a watchword for quality automobiles, catering
toward a luxury market.  Tiffany and Company even supplied the cars’
silver fittings. However, with the increasing use of autos by the
general populace, and the cheap, accessible cars now produced by Ford
Motor Company and GM, Locomobile began to lose importance and customers.
The Great Depression sounded the final death knell for this fabled
Bridgeport car company.

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About Author

Eric Lehman

Eric D. Lehman teaches creative writing and literature at the University of Bridgeport, and is the author of several books, including Bridgeport: Tales from the Park City; Becoming Tom Thumb: Charles Stratton, P.T. Barnum and the Dawn of American Celebrity; Afoot in Connecticut: Journeys in Natural History; and A History of Connecticut Wine; and ; A history of Connecticut food : a proud tradition of puddings, clambakes and steamed cheeseburgers. You may contact him at elehman@bridgeport.edu.

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