Charles Duryea

15/12/1862 - 28/12/1938

Record updated

Early motoring pioneer jointly credited with invented the car with his brother, Frank. They founded the first company to manufacture and sell gasoline-powered vehicles.

Charles Duryea
After working on his parent's farm, he went to an engineering school and in 1882 become a mechanic. He went to work for the Rouse Cycle Company in Washington D.C.. The bicycle industry was in a period of huge growth and he was joined by his brother, Frank, in 1888.

They became bicycle manufacturers when they bought into the Rouse Cycle Company which then became the Rouse-Duryea Cycle Company.

They developed an interest in gasoline engines and automobiles. On September 20 1893, their first automobile was constructed and successfully tested on the public streets of Springfield, Massachusetts.

America's First Automobile Race was held on November 28, 1895 at 8:55 am. Six motorcars left Chicago's Jackson Park for a 54-mile race to Evanston, Illinois and back through the snow. Number 5, driven by Frank, won the race in just over 10 hours at an average speed of about 7.3 miles per hour. He won $2,000, the enthusiast who named the horseless vehicles "motorcycles" won $500, and the Chicago Times-Herald, sponsor of the race, declared, "Persons who are inclined to decry the development of the horseless carriage will be forced to recognise it as an admitted mechanical achievement, highly adapted to some of the most urgent needs of our civilization."

Frank and Charles Duryea founded the Duryea Motor Wagon Company in 1896 using some of the prize money. They became the first company to manufacture and sell gasoline-powered vehicles. By 1896, the company had sold thirteen cars of the model Duryea, an expensive limousine, which remained in production into the 1920s.

Later a degree of controversy sprung up as to who had invented the car. Charles' name was always on t he patent but Frank claimed that he was the inventor as he designed the plans. They finally dropped the argument, agreeing that it was a joint invention.

One of their early cars was involved in the first known automobile accident. Due to low production and sales, the company stopped manufacturing around 1914. Charles then joined up with Mr. Stevens to create the Stevens-Duryea Motor Company. The two were very sucessful and made some of the first six and eight cylindered cars.

Charles passed away on February 16, 1967, at the ripe old age of 98. The name Duryea is still associated with automobile pioneers.