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Schuylkill County History

On April 1, 1898, a Port Carbon Man Bought the First Car in America

first car bought in America

No foolin’ — a guy from Port Carbon bought the first car in America.

It happened on this day, April 1, 1898.

That’s the day Robert Allison, of Port Carbon, purchased the first automobile in America.

OK, technically, Allison paid the Winton Motor Carriage Company $1,000 on March 24 that year.

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But it took more than a week for the money to get to the owner of the company, Alexander Winton. He was in Cleveland, Ohio.

When Winton got the money, he shipped the first Winton Motor Carriage to Allison in Port Carbon.

He wrote about the experience in a 1913 edition of Saturday Evening Post. In that article, Winton writes:

“The exact date of the sale was March 24, 1898, and about a week later — on April 1, 1898 — I received payment and shipped the car to its new owner, Robert Allison, a mechanical engineer of Port Carbon, Pennsylvania. I bought it back after Allison had used it a few years, and it is now in the Smithsonian Institution, in Washington.” (It’s now believed the vehicle is no longer there.)

Port Carbon Man Buys America’s First Car

So, how did the first “car” in America end up in Port Carbon?

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A year prior to the sale, Winton and a friend drove a prototype from Cleveland to New York.

The trip got a lot of press but no investors. Winton took out an ad in Scientific American magazine.

Check it out …

first car bought in America

Allison reportedly drove the carriage from Port Carbon to Philadelphia. It took 3 days.

There were no gas stations, of course. So Allison and Winton had to buy alcohol from local drug stores along the way.

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There was another thing Allison and Winton shared in common. Actually, we all share it in common with them. They each had the same complaint after their first automobile trip … the roads suck!

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