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The First Automobile in the USA

August 10, 2017

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In 1873, Dr John W Carhart drove his new steam powered invention - the first practical automobile in the United States - on wagon roads in Racine. Over the next 50 years, 80 car and truck manufacturers called Wisconsin home and numerous automobile related inventions were created in the Badger State. In 1890, inventor Gottfried Schloemer drove America's first gasoline powered car on the streets of Milwaukee. Schloemer later invented the muffler and may have invented the first practical gas powered farm tractor. A O Smith created the first automobile steel frame in 1898 and would soon supply a majority American auto manufacturers. The first practical speedometer, headlights and countless other auto parts were invented in Wisconsin. In 1916 Nash Motors in Kenosha emerged as a major auto manufacturer. Nash innovations include the first modern heating and ventilation system (still used), the first seatbelts, unibody construction, the first American compact car and the first muscle car.  The merger of Nash and the Hudson Motor Car Company created American Motors (AMC).  America's highway numbering system was a Wisconsin idea and the fact that the first auto races in the world happened here was not lost on author Jules Verne who described an epic cross state race in his novel, "Master of the World". As a major auto manufacturer during the 20th century Wisconsin was second to Detroit. As the home of specialty truck manufacturing (such as firefighting and military transport vehicles), Wisconsin is first...but that's another story.