Freelan Oscar Stanley

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Freelan Oscar Stanley
Freelan Oscar Stanley circa 1910.jpg
Born Freelan Oscar Stanley
(1849-06-01)June 1, 1849
Kingfield, Maine
Died October 2, 1940(1940-10-02) (aged 91)
Newton, Massachusetts
Resting place Riverside Cemetery, Kingfield, Maine
Known for Stanley Steamer, The Stanley Hotel, Rocky Mountain National Park
Board member of
  • Hebron Academy Board of Trustees, 1911-40 (President, 1915-40)
  • Maine State Sanatorium Association Board of Trustees, 1913
Spouse(s) Flora Jane Record Tileston
Children none
  • Solomon Stanley
  • Apphia Kezar French

Freelan Oscar Stanley (June 1, 1849 – October 2, 1940) was an American inventor, hotelier and businessman. He was the co-founder, along with his twin brother Francis Edgar Stanley, of the Stanley Motor Carriage Company which built the Stanley Steamer.

Early life[edit]

Freelan Oscar Stanley and his identical twin brother Francis Edgar (1849-1918) were born on June 1, 1849, in Kingfield, Maine. They were the third and second, respectively, of the six children of Solomon P. Stanley II (1813–89) and Apphia Kezar Stanley (nee, French. 1819-74). Although their family was not wealthy, education was highly valued and knowledge of science, poetry and music were encouraged from a young age. Their elder brother Isaac Newton Stanley was named for the eminent English scientist while their youngest brother received the name of Bayard Taylor, the renowned American literary figure. Their younger sister Chansonetta Stanley Emmons achieved significant recognition as a photographer.

In 1859, At the age of ten, Freelan and Francis started their first business together refining and selling maple sugar. The object of their hard-earned money was wool for new school suits and a copy of Benjamin Greenleaf's National Arithmetic in which book they worked every equation from cover to cover. At eleven, their great-uncle, Liberty Stanley, who had raised their father as his own son, taught them the art of violin-making. By the following year, Freelan had completed three instruments. He would continue to make them throughout his life creating many concert-quality pieces still prized today by collectors and musicians.

Seal of Bowdoin College

In 1860, at the age of twenty the brothers began their collegiate education at Western State Normal School (now University of Maine, Farmington) with the intention of becoming educators.[1] Francis Edgar soon found that formal education was not to his liking and left to pursue a career as a portrait artist. Freelan continued his education at Hebron Academy from 1871 to 1873 and finally Bowdoin College in Brunswick from 1873 to 1874 where he was in the same class as Arctic explorer Admiral Robert Peary. He never completed his degree, however, due to his participation in the so-called Drill Rebellion. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (1828-1914), Bowdoin alumnus (class of 1852), former professor, and hero of Gettysberg, had become president of the college in 1871 and instituted mandatory military drills for all students. Although Stanley was exempt from the drill as a member of the college band, he was nonetheless strongly opposed to it and acted in solidarity with his peers. In November 1873, the students petitioned the Board of Governors to abolish it. In May 1874, having been unsuccessful in their petition, three-quarters of the student body refused to participate. The protesters were sent home for one week and given the ultimatum of compliance or expulsion. Stanley was one of three students who refused to comply. Despite his expulsion, Freelan Oscar Stanley was granted an honorary degree from Bowdoin in 1919 at the age of 70. The drills were repealed after Chamberlain's resignation in 1883.

Following his time at Bowdoin, Stanley accepted a position as headmaster of the high school in Mechanic Falls, Maine[2] where he met Flora Jane Record Tileston (1847-1939). She was a teacher and a pianist of some competancy. They were married in 1876. In 1881, Stanley was struck with Tuberculosis. His younger brother Solomon Liberty was carried off by the disease the same year at the age of 27. Freelan was more lucky. He resolved to lead a less sedentary life and decided upon a career in manufactures, opening the Stanley Practical Drawing Set factory. Unfortunately, his new business was ruined in a fire which destroyed the whole of his investment only a year later, in 1882.

Stanley Dry Plate Company[edit]

Francis Edgar Stanley in his studio

After leaving school, Francis Edgar Stanley had married a woman by the name of Augusta May Walker (1848-1927) and opened a portrait studio. His first technique was "crayon" or charcoal which he supplemented with his "Improvement to the Atomizer," a forerunner of the modern air brush which he patented in 1876. In 1882, Francis had begun experimenting with photography for which he quickly developed an affinity. Following the tragic conflagration of his brother's factory, Francis suggested that the two work together to develop a new photographic product. By 1885, the Stanley brothers had established the Stanley Dry Plate Company in Lewiston, Maine. The first primitive dry photo plate had been invented by the English physician Richard Leach Maddox in 1871. Charles Bennett discovered important improvements upon the original formula but, ten years later, most photographers were still using the wet plate collodion process. By perfecting their factory process and marketing their product across the country, the Stanley Company quickly rose to predominance at a time when the market for factory- rather than studio-made photo materials was just opening. The brothers quickly amassed a small fortune and, in 1890, they moved to Newton, Massachusetts.

In Newton, the Freelan and Flora Stanley emerged as upper-class sophisticates. In 1894, Freelan presented her with a Colonial Revival House at 165 Hunnewell Avenue in the well-to-do Hunnewell Hill neighborhood. In 1896, His brother built a home for his own family close-by at 638 Centre Street, acquiring, soon thereafter, a summer residence at Squirrel Island, Maine. In 1897-98 the twins purchased land and began construction on the Hunnewell Club, the seat of a social organization for the brothers' neighbors and friends. The building housed a ballroom, billiard room and bowling alley.

Stanley Motor Carriage Company[edit]

Freelan and Flora Stanley at the summit of Mt. Washington in a Stanley Motor Carriage after the company was sold to John Brisben Walker, 1899
A Stanley-designed Locomobile

The Stanley twins were now living in the heartland of an ongoing Renaissance of American invention characterized by the East Coast millionaire-inventor-businessman. Between Bell's telephone (Ontario/Boston, 1876) and Edison's light bulb (Menlo Park, 1879) were thousands of lesser geniuses making improvements in machinery, chemistry and every other technology. Being the very paragons of this new type of entrepreneur, the brothers were not satisfied with the success of their photo plate venture. Needing a new occupation for his time and money, Francis Edgar soon became interested in motor cars. By 1897, he had built his first of wagon and bicycle parts. After deliberating the merits of combustion, electricity and steam, he determined that steam was the way of the future, an opinion he and his brother would hold to fastidiously for the rest of their lives. Not long after completing it, the Stanley Brothers took Francis' car to the Boston Auto Show (1898) held in Charles River Park, and so impressed the crowd that afterwards they began to produce steam cars by custom order. This event marks the beginning of the Stanley Motor Carriage Company.

In 1899, the editor of Cosmo, John Brisben Walker expressed interest in purchasing the Stanley’s car business. The brothers were reluctant and decided to ask for a good deal more than they thought he would accept - $250,000. To their surprise, Walker accepted their offer immediately although he had to seek the financial backing of “Asphalt King” Amzi L. Barber to close the deal. For a few months, Walker and Barber managed the enterprise together. During this period, although they no longer owned the company, the Stanley Brothers stayed on as consultants; Francis in manufacturing and Freelan in marketing. This period marked a number of publicity stunts for which Stanley automobiles received much notoriety. In August 1899, Freelan and Flora Stanley became the first of many motorists to reach the top of Mt. Washington, the tallest peak in New England. In November of the same year, Freelan gave William McKinley a tour of Washington DC in a Stanley automobile marking the first time a U.S. President had ridden in a car.

Driver Fred Marriott behind the wheel of the Stanley Rocket Racer
The demolished Rocket Racer (1907)

Within a year, Walker and Barber had gone their separate ways creating two separate car companies. Barber’s company existed briefly as the Mobile Company of America, was moved into a new factory in Tarrytown, New York designed by the distinguished American architect Sanford White. Walker’s Locomobile Company of America, which achieved rather more success after switching to combustion, relocated in 1900 to Bridgeport, Connecticut, an important early center for the American auto industry. Disappointed by the disintegration of their company, Freelan and Francis decided to start again from scratch. Their name was now no longer in use and their old factory had been vacated by Walker. The only problems were the patents which still belonged to Locomobile. The Stanleys resolved this issue by not only changing but improving their original designs. In 1901, they resumed production of the new, improved Stanley Motor Carriage under their old name. The quality of their new cars was such that their rival in the photo plate business George Eastman (of Kodak, Rochester, NY) became an avid customer, acquiring a Stanley in 1901. “If the electric [automobile] is a ‘peach,’” he once wrote, “then the Stanley is a ‘peacherina.’”[3] His compliment must have encouraged the brothers to pour their energy into steam rather than photo supplies because, in 1904, they sold him the Stanley Dry Plate Company. The original Stanley auto patents were finally purchased back from Walker in 1903 for $20,000, the same year Locomobile abandoned steam for combustion.

In 1906, the Stanleys earned a place in the history of transportation. With driver Fred Marriott behind the wheel, their specially designed "Rocket Racer" broke the land-speed record at 127.66 miles-per-hour at Ormond Beach near Daytona Beach, Florida, earning them the Dewar Trophy. The next year, an attempt was made to break the record again. This time, the Rocket Racer crashed. Although Marriott was not killed, the Stanley brothers decided to set aside their record-breaking ambitions. The brothers also intended to compete in the 1906 Vanderbilt Cup Race with a specially designed "Vanderbilt Racer" but were disqualified by the strict entry parameters.

Estes Park, Colorado[edit]

Main Street, Estes Park, CO, 1912

In 1903, at the age of 54, Stanley was stricken with a life-threatening resurgence of tuberculosis.[4] The most highly recommended treatment of the day was fresh, dry air with lots of sunlight and a hearty diet. Therefore, like many "lungers" of his day, he resolved to take the curative air of Rocky Mountain Colorado. Perhaps this decision was influenced by his familiarity with John Brisben Walker, who had been a property investor in Colorado since 1880 and a resident of Morrison, Colorado after selling Cosmo to William Randolph Hearst in 1905.

He and Flora arrived in Denver in March and were followed shortly by his Stanley Runabout which was shipped by train. After one night at the famous Brown Palace Hotel, Stanley arranged an appointment with Dr. Sherman Grant Bonney (MD, Harvard, 1889), the preeminent American expert in the disease. Dr. Bonney, a great advocate for home treatment, recommended he leave the hotel for a rented house at the first possible convenience. The Stanleys spent the remainder of the winter at 1401 Gilpin Street but, when his symptoms had not improved by June, he determined to summer in the Colorado mountains. Bonney recommended Estes Park whose climate he compared with that of Davos, Switzerland, a posh resort for European tuberculetics. On June 29, Stanley saw Flora off by train and stagecoach while he set out in his steam car. Having gotten lost and spent the night in Boulder, Stanley arrived a day later, on June 30. During their first summer the couple stayed in a primitive cabin rented to them by the owners of the Elkhorn Lodge. Over the course of the warm season, Stanley's health improved dramatically. Impressed by the beauty of the valley and grateful for his recovery, he decided to return every year.

By the end of the summer of 1903, Stanley had acquired property in Estes Park and, with the help of English architect Henry "Lord Cornwallis" Rogers whose acquaintance the Stanleys had recently made, he began the construction of Rockside, his home in Colorado. Completed in 1905, the Stanley cottage was built with four bedrooms, gracious living areas and a modern kitchen, so that Flora could entertain summer guests. Stanley, whose primary leisure activities involved billiards, violins and steam cars, designed a basement with space for a billiard table and a detached garage with a violin workshop and a turntable, so that the steam car could exit front-wise rather than in reverse. The front door opened onto a veranda facing south with a view across the Estes Valley towards Long's Peak. Dr. Sherman Bonney apparently approved of his patient's design choices and included images of the house in his book, Pulmonary Tuberculosis and Its Complications of 1908. It remains standing today west of the Stanley Hotel as a private home.

By 1907, Stanley had all but recovered and he returned to Newton for the winter rather than Denver. However, he and Flora had become enamored with the beauty of the Colorado mountains, often comparing them in speeches with those "rock-ribbed" hills "ancient as the sun" of William Cullen Bryant's Thanatopsis. Not content with the rustic accommodations, lazy pastimes and relaxed social scene of their new home, Stanley resolved to turn Estes Park into a resort town. In 1907, construction began on the Hotel Stanley, a grand hotel catering to the class of wealthy urbanites who composed the Stanleys' social circle in Newton.[4] Construction was steel frame with clapboarding on a granite foundation. Although designed to Stanley's specifications, the structure was built with the professional aid of Denver architect, Theilman Robert Weiger.

To power the new hotel, Stanley constructed the Fall River Hydro-Plant which consequentially brought electricity to Estes Park for the first time. Upon opening, the hotel had 48 guest rooms, each pair sharing one bathroom. It had a fully electric kitchen and steam laundry, a hydraulic elevator, and electric lights and telephones throughout. Near the main structure, Freelan built a Concert Hall complete with a Steinway Grand Piano as a gift for Flora. During the day, Guests at the Stanley enjoyed golf, bowling, horseback-riding and motor excursions. At night, guests enjoyed formal dinners, concerts and lighter entertainment such as billiards. The steam car played a pivotal role in the operation of the Stanley Hotel. To transport visitors to and from the hotel, Stanley created a twelve-seat model which was thereafter marketed as the "Mountain Wagon" and became popular at other resorts such as those near present-day Olympic National Park in the State of Washington.

Stanley's presence and the construction of his hotel provided enormous impetus to the Town of Estes Park which incorporated as a city in 1917. In 1904, Stanley organized and partially funded the paving of the Big Thompson Canyon Road (today US 34) to Loveland and, in 1907, the paving of the St. Vrain Road (today US 36). From 1906, he was president of the Protective and Improvement Association and from 1907, first president of the Estes Park Bank. In 1908, he had purchased the vast ranch lands of the 4th Earl of Dunraven, comprising most of the valley, which he gradually gifted to the town. His largest grant, given in 1936, once called Stanley Park, now comprises the man-made Lake Estes (formed by Olympus Dam 1947-48) the fairgrounds (1941) and present high school campus.

Stanley is often remembered for his role in the creation of the Rocky Mountain National Park. As president of the Protective and Improvement Association, Stanley became keenly aware that the charms of the Estes Valley lay in its natural environs and its wildlife. To prevent the gradual destruction of these by increasing numbers of tourists and sportsmen, he organized the establishment of the Fall River Fish Hatchery (1907) and the introduction of a herd of Wapiti Elk from Yellowstone National Park in 1913. Most importantly, he forged a deep friendship with naturalist Enos Mills who ran the rustic Long's Peak Inn. With Stanley's encouragement and financial support, Mills traveled the country campaigning for the protection of the Rockies of North-Central Colorado. In 1915, Woodrow Wilson signed the document establishing the Rocky Mountain National Park, today the fifth most-visited of 58 in the US. Stanley and Mills were both present at the dedication ceremony.

In 1926, the hotel was sold to the Stanley Corporation, a private company established to manage Freelan's assets in Estes Park. Without Stanley's fortune to pad the annual budget, the corporation soon filed for bankruptcy. Stanley purchased the hotel back at a low price and passed it off again in 1930 to fellow auto and hotel magnate Roe Emery who would remain the owner until 1947. Although he no longer managed the hotel, Stanley continued to reside each summer at Rockside, his cottage nearby.

Later life[edit]

Stanley School, Kingfield, Maine, f. 1903. Today, the Stanley Museum.

After adopting Estes Park as his summer home, Stanley turned more from his business ventures and toward philanthropy and the management of his hotel. In 1903, the year he left for Denver for the first time, he endowed the construction of a new high school in his old hometown of Kingfield, Maine which remains standing today as a museum dedicated to Stanley's life. In 1905, the dry plate company was sold to Eastman Kodak, however the Stanley brothers continued to be active at the Stanley Motor Carriage Company, breaking the land-speed record with the Rocket Racer in 1906. By 1917, at the age of 68, Freelan and Francis were ready for retirement and sold the auto company. That year, Francis and his wife Augusta were able to visit his brother's property in Estes Park for the first time. The following year, Francis was killed tragically in an auto accident on a country road near Wenham, Massachusetts.

Stanley served on many boards and committees. He was a trustee of Hebron Academy from 1911 and president of the board from 1914 until his death. He endowed the school with funds to build, in 1926, Stanley Arena, the first enclosed high school hockey rink in the nation where future pro-hockey players Eddie Jeremiah (Boston Bruins) and Danny Sullivan (Hershey Bears) would play for Hebron as student athletes. From 1913, he was a trustee of the Maine State Sanatorium Association. In Estes Park, he served as president of numerous organizations working tirelessly to improve and develop the town.

By 1926, Flora Stanley's eyesight had deteriorated to such a point that she was no longer comfortable in new places. Although the Stanleys continued to travel between Newton and Estes Park, Freelan began to think of retirement from public life, selling his hotel. In 1939, while in Estes Park, Flora suffered a stroke and died soon thereafter at their Colorado home, Rockside. The next year Stanley returned to Estes Park for the summer but maintained an inconspicuous presence. Shortly after his return to Newton in 1940, Stanley suffered heart failure, passing away on October 2.[5]

See also[edit]





  1. ^
  2. ^ Doris A. Isaacson, ed. (1937). Maine: A Guide Down East. Federal Writers Project. pp. 381–386. Freeland [sic] O. Stanley, an inventor, was principal of the town's first high school, and early engines of the Stanley Steamer, one of the first automobiles, 
  3. ^ "Peacherina" was a favorite phrase of Eastman's, he having applied it in similar context to Maxfield Parrish's 1922 painting Interlude
  4. ^ a b "Rocky Mountain National Park - Culture". Retrieved 2007-05-10. 
  5. ^ "Freelan O. Stanley. He and His Twin Brother Were Makers of the Stanley Steamer.". New York Times. October 3, 1940. Retrieved 2008-07-03. Freelan O. Stanley, who with his twin brother, the late Francis Stanley, invented the Stanley Steamer, which appeared in the late Nineties in competition with the early gasoline driven motor cars, died tonight in his home at Newton. His age was 91. He had returned ten days ago from Colorado, where he spent the Summer. 

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