Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 148,441 pages of information and 233,877 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Stephen M. Balzer

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Stephen M. Balzer (1864-1940)

1896. 15th December. Patent Number 573,174 to inventor Stephen M. Balzer for a gasoline-powered motor buggy that he built two years earlier. Balzer never mass-produced any of his cars, but his "experimental" vehicle was one of the first functioning automobiles to be built in the United States. The Balzer car is on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. It was the first gas-powered car in the museum's collection.

In 1894, Balzer was working in the machine-manufacturing business by day; by night, he was building an internal-combustion motor car. The Balzer car had a three-cylinder, air-cooled rotary motor. It was open at the top and sides. Unlike other autos of the era, the Balzer's rear wheels were much larger than its front wheels - they were 28 and 18 inches across, respectively. This design helped the car to keep its traction and its maneuverability.

Balzer incorporated the Balzer Motor Company in 1900, but he was more interested in tinkering with engines than in the business side of auto manufacturing, and so the company never made any money. Later, Balzer helped to design the motor in Samuel Pierpont Langley's 1903 'Aerodrome' flying machine.

He spent his later career designing and manufacturing surgical equipment.

Balzer died in 1940.

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