September 15, 2004

Today in Automotive History 1909

Today in Automotive History

1909 The Imaginary Patent

George Selden is rarely mentioned in accounts of automobile history, often lost among names like Ford, Daimler, and Cugnot. However, Selden reigned as the "Father of the Automobile" for almost 20 years, his name engraved on every car from 1895 until 1911. He held the patent on the "Road Engine," which was effectively a patent on the automobile - a claim that went unchallenged for years, despite the many other inventors who had contributed to the development of the automobile and the internal combustion engine. Almost all of the early car manufacturers, unwilling to face the threat of a lawsuit, were forced to buy licenses from Selden, so almost every car on the road sported a small brass plaque reading "Manufactured under Selden Patent." Henry Ford was the only manufacturer willing to challenge Selden in court, and on this day a New York judge ruled that Ford had indeed infringed on Selden's patent. This decision was later overturned when it became plain that Selden had never intended to actually manufacture his "road engine." Selden's own "road engine" prototype, built in the hope of strengthening his case, only managed to stagger along for a few hours before breaking down.

Posted by Quality Weenie at September 15, 2004 08:03 AM