CLEVELAND – Years before Henry Ford rolled his Model A and Model T Fords off the assembly lines of Detroit, it was Cleveland which told the world it was the automotive capital.
Cleveland was right because when the world looked for cars, its eyes were on this Northeast Ohio city.
From 1896 to 1907, more cars came out of Cleveland than anywhere else in the world.
Inside the city, there were 65 car manufacturers.
In the general area surrounding Cleveland, there were another four dozen.
Most of the car makers did not stay in the business, of course, but each made at least one vehicle.
Many made numerous vehicles as the world was beginning to ride on motorized vehicles.
“That period of 1896 to 1907 was really the time period when Cleveland produced the most cars in America and was turning them out in high numbers,” said Derek Moore, curator of transportation at the Crawford Auto-Aviation Collection at the Western Reserve Historical Society.
The first floor of the Cleveland-based society is dedicated to cars made in Cleveland during that historic period and for several decades afterward.
Among the cars on display are the Baker, the Chandler, the Peerless, the White, the Wynton and the Jordan.
Moore said because of Cleveland’s strong steel and transportation industries, making cars and getting them shipped to buyers made the city a strong car manufacturer hub.
Not all of the cars ran on gasoline though.
There were vehicles that ran on steam or electricity.
Later, the 1916 Owen Magnetic wowed drivers because it used a gasoline engine to produce electricity.
The car ran on electricity.
All this was about a hundred years before Chevrolet began making its electric car, the Chevy Volt.
When Henry Ford found success with the assembly line concept in Detroit, that city began to move ahead of Cleveland to become the Motor City, capital of the automotive world.
However, because Cleveland was so heavily involved in car making, it set the tone for the area’s continued involvement in auto parts.
The Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler parts plants which grew up in the 20th Century actually grew out of those automotive pioneers who set up shop throughout Cleveland and set the world on its first wheels.
Follow Leon Bibb on Facebook