Patent News | " Automobile played role in forming the suburbs"

By: Ruth Moehlman
Category: Patent News 

Patent News
Suburbs are possible because of the automobile, but the early auto industry met many obstacles.

The Selden patent almost devastated the early industry. It's been over 100 years since it was overturned. Back in the early 1900s, one very sage farm wife is reputed to say, “you can't go to town in a bathtub.”
The turn of the 20th century is marked by the beginnings of indoor plumbing and the self propelled vehicle, the automobile. Americans got cleaner and got around much better. When there was a choice, when there wasn't enough money for both plumbing and a vehicle, people chose a car or truck.

The bicycle craze of the 1880s enabled people to move around freely without depending on a horse. This led to the quadricycle, which was self propelled. Bicycle parts like chains and gears were used in the early experiments. All sorts of motors were used. Some were steam driven, while others were electric. Europe led the way. Experiments went back centuries, but it wasn't until new technology that made some things possible.
Eventually, in 1879, gasoline became the fuel of choice. One very observant New York attorney, George Selden, patented the self-propelled vehicle gasoline vehicle. Starting in 1879 and improving the patent as he went along, he received his patent in 1895. He had never built a car himself until 1903. The Selden patent included all vehicles using gasoline engines, according to William Greenleaf in his Monopoly on Wheels.
Selden set up a license system on his patent. Automobile manufacturers had to pay a fee for every vehicle produced. Some manufactures built vehicles without a license. They got sued.

A group got together, led by Detroit's own Henry Ford. According to William Greenleaf, the Detroit group lost the first cases, but eventually, they won. Not only was the Selden patent overturned, but the whole patent system was revised in America.

As we drive around in our “road carriages,” the right to use a gasoline engine seems like the thing to do. The gasoline engine is smaller and more powerful than other engines going back to the earliest experiments. Over 100 years later, inventors are continuing to try again to fuel vehicles as this inexpensive fuel becomes more expensive.