April 28, 2006

Today In Automotive History

1903 Ten more join ALAM

A group of 10 automobile manufacturers including Cadillac, Northern, Thomas, and Pope joined the Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers (ALAM). Eighteen other firms including Winton, Pierce-Arrow, and Packard had signed on March 5. The addition of the 10 new companies made the ALAM a nearly comprehensive list of automobile producers intent on protecting their own patent rights and standardizing the industry's production systems. ALAM formed in response to the suits resulting from U.S. Patent No. 549,160 granted to Geroge Selden and referring to his possession of the right to royalties on any hydrocarbon gas engine built for the purpose of propelling road cars and horseless carriages. The patent was seen as ridiculous by some, as Selden never produced a car, but its legitimacy was upheld in federal court most notably against the likes of the Duryea brothers, Alexander Winton, and Ransom Olds. ALAM was an attempt to organize negotiations with the Electric Vehicle Company, which had purchased the partial rights to Selden's patent. On March 5, 30 automobile manufacturers met to consider Electric Vehicle President George Day's proposal that they form an association of manufacturers licensed to use the Selden patent. The parties eventually agreed that each member of the association would pay 1.25% on each car's catalogue price. One-fifth of the money went directly to Selden, two-fifths to Electric Vehicle, and the remaining two-fifths were paid to the association. After April 28, there were 28 members of ALAM. The Association used its revenue to standardize the production of nuts, bolts, screw threads, spark plugs, etc. The branch also maintained a research laboratory in Hartford, Connecticut. ALAM only lasted until a court ruled in 1911 that Selden's patent applied only to the out-of-date 2-cycle engine that was no longer in use. In spite of its relatively short lifetime ALAM was the first organization of car manufacturers and was heavily responsible for the standardization of automobile parts that allowed the industry to grow so quickly and to produce so heavily in the following decades.

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