Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/422

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

From 1845 up to the early nineties, a period of nearly half a century, very little was done in the way of developing the automobile. From time to time inventors in various parts of the world devoted themselves to the subject, but they were generally looked upon as visionary cranks, and their work attracted little attention. During this period there was an almost universal prejudice against the use of any kind of mechanical power upon the streets or public highways, and it is even possible that if during these years any one had invented a horseless carriage, perfect in every way, he would have failed to obtain proper recognition. Prejudice against mechanically-propelled vehicles has gradually worn away, probably because of the introduction of cable and trolley cars, and at the present time the majority of people desire to see the substitution of mechanical for animal power. As a result of this change in public opinion, self-propelled vehicles are accepted as entirely satisfactory, which a few years ago would have been regarded

PSM V57 D422 Scott russel stream carriage of 1845.png
Fig. 10. Scott Russell's Steam Carriage, Made in 1845.

as failures. Notwithstanding this tolerant feeling, however, it is very doubtful whether the cumbersome coaches of the early part of the century would be received with favor at the present time when taste and requirements are entirely different. What is now desired is a light, fast-running and attractive vehicle, which could not be constructed along the lines followed by the inventors of former days. The automobile of to-day is a far more perfect device than its predecessors, although it can not be said to have reached a state of perfection. As motive power, steam, gasoline and electricity are used. Which of the three is the best, taking all things into consideration, it would be difficult to say, as each one has its defects as well as its advantages, and the evident superiority of each one in a certain direction is offset by deficiencies in other directions.

In every civilized country, where the mechanic arts are far enough advanced, automobiles are now being manufactured, but France is the country where modern development first began, and up to the present