Gottfried Schloemer

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Gottfried Schlöemer
1892 Schloemer sketch.jpg
1892 sketch
Born (1842-08-25)August 25, 1842[1]
near Cologne
Died November 24, 1921(1921-11-24) (aged 79)[2][3]
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Occupation cooper
Spouse(s) Mary Elisabeth Schmid
Children 3 boys, 3 girls
Frank Toepfer machine shop in Wisconsin, circa 1902 birthplace of the first gasoline automobile
Schloemer with first gasoline car, c. 1900
Schloemer and his automobile in 1895 floral parade
Fay L Cusick, the owner in 1920 of the Schloemer automobile

Gottfried Schlöemer or Godfrey Schlöemer (1842–1921) was a coopersmith, mechanic and inventor who lived on the south side of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, US.[4][5] His principal claim to fame rests on the "motor wagon" that he built there in 1889, which some have hailed as the first workable gasoline-engine automobile ever built in the United States,[6][7] four years ahead of Charles and Frank Duryea, who are most often identified with this achievement.[8]

At the time of his death certain local reports even claimed him as the designer and maker of the first gasoline-powered automobile in the world,[9][10][11] although that honor is usually given to the German Karl Benz in 1885.[8]

Early life[edit]

Schloemer was born near Cologne on the Rhine river August 25, 1842.[1] He immigrated to America from Prussia with his family when he was 3 years old in May 1845.[1] According to the National Archives he arrived in New York port on the ship Harriett on July 1, 1845.[12] They then traveled to Milwaukee and arrived there in June 1846 and bought some farm land on Beloit Road.[1] Schloemer was raised on this farm and when he became an adult he moved out of state and took up jobs in the copper mines of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.[1]

Schloemer later moved back to Milwaukee and lived at 545 Fourth Avenue.[1] He then worked for the Toepfer brothers out of a red brick building as a cooper in their machine shop on National Ave in Milwaukee. There with Frank Toepfer he made the first gas-fueled automobile.[4][5][13]

Family history[edit]

Schloemer's family line was from Germany according to the 1880 United States Federal Census. Schloemer himself as well as his wife and her parents were born in Prussia. He was married to a neighborhood girl 3 years his senior, Mary Elisabeth Schmid, on May 30, 1867.[1] She normally went by the name Elizabeth and was born about 1839, according to the United States Federal Census. Their children were

  • John, b. Jun 1869
  • Catharine, b. 1871
  • Andrew, b. Nov 1872
  • Anne, b. Jan 1875
  • Wolfgang, b. 1876
  • Christian, b. Jan 1880

As of 1892 John, the eldest son, is the only one of the children that has moved out of the Schloemer's home. John has a good reputation as a piano-tuner working for a well known music man of Milwaukee named George Gerber whose business is on National Avenue.[1]

Schloemer's medical history shows he suffered from a hernia for two years starting in the summer of 1890. A doctor friend that had moved back to Milwaukee in 1892 cured him in about 5 weeks.[1]

Schloemer automobile[edit]

Schloemer automobile, c. 1918

Schloemer, according to a later testimony of his, said that in 1880 he conceived the idea of a "motor wagon" (a.k.a. "gas buggy", "auto wagon") with an attached gasoline engine to make it self-propelling. He was in the cooperage business at the Toepfer blacksmith shop on National Avenue in Milwaukee at that time. Schloemer went about having a single-cylinder motor made according to his design by the Sintz Gas Engine Company of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Sintz made the engines used later by Charles Brady King and others for their first automobile.[14]

The Sintz engine that was specifically designed and ordered by Schloemer was 3.5 inches by 3.5 inches. It was installed in the "motor wagon" that was made in 1889 by Schloemer. He first drove the motorized wagon on the streets of Milwaukee in 1890.[13]

Schloemer believed in the commercial value of the idea of his "motor wagon" and went about marketing his car. He went about getting capitalists to invest in his invention in later part of the 1880s without much luck. Finally he obtained two wealthy Milwaukee men to invest in his self-propelled "motor wagon" in 1889. They set plans by 1892 to manufacture the car in a large quantities, however the national financial panic of 1893 put a halt on their plans and the investors backed out.[14]

Automobile design[edit]

Schloemer had to improvise on his "motor wagon" for an igniting system to fire the fuel, since at that time there was no such thing as a spark plug. He used a home-made make-and-break sparking mechanism consisting of two points of steel striking together causing a "spark" to ignite the gasoline fumes in the cylinder.[15]

Schloemer designed in 1892 and patented a carburetor, which was known as the Gottfried Schloemer carburetor. He used kerosene lamp wicks in the center of it to get the gasoline from the gas tank into the cylinder of the motor to be ignited.[13]

Schloemer also tells in a later testimony that when he drove his "motor wagon" down the streets of downtown Milwaukee for the first time he remembers he went down West Water Street and stopped at Spiegel's Drug Store to purchase some items. When he came out of the store there was a large crowd around the automobile and found it necessary to ask a policeman to clear a passageway for him to leave. Once he started the motor, the very loud noise scared the people that gathered and they immediately scattered.[13]

Schloemer's first version of a horseless carriage was a "rocking seat automobile" where a person bounced up and down on the seat to cause a mechanical rocking operation that drove a crank that drove the rear wheels. This operated the "automobile" for only a block and a half before it failed. From there he added his specially designed Sintz motor in 1889 and in 1890 was driving the self-propelled automobile on the streets of Milwaukee.[13][16]

Schloemer drove his car in a floral parade in 1895, the first automobile ever to do this. He was the only automobile in the parade. He also led the first automobile parade that was ever held on the streets of Milwaukee. There were seven automobiles in the car parade.[17]

There is a debate even to this day as to who should get the credit for making the first practical workable gasoline-powered automobile.[18] Karl Benz is a claimant to the world's first self-propelled velocipede with a three-wheeled motorwagon in Germany in 1885. Some that take the claim of making the first gas-fueled car in America are Henry Nadig and Charles H. Black. Popular credit usually goes to the Duryea Brothers for the first commercially manufactured gasoline-powered "horseless carriage" in the U.S. with the introduction of the "Ladies Phaeton" motor wagon model in 1893.[19] Henry Ford is credited with the idea of the modern-day assembly line production of cars.

Later life[edit]

Schloemer had a farm which was known as the Shumacher farm on Beloit Road in Greenfield, Wisconsin. Since he lost his investors for his new motorized vehicle he was discouraged and discontinued working on it. He stored it in a building there on the farm for many years since he didn't have the finances to produce the car in quantity. He later sold the "motor wagon" to Fay L. Cusick, a car dealer of West Allis. Cusick later sold it to friends of the Milwaukee Public Museum who donated it to the museum.[4][20][21][22] It is still there to this day and touted as "the first practical gasoline-powered auto in the nation."[23] Frederic Haskin of the Arizonia Republic reports that this vehicle is probably the oldest American automobile in existence.[24]

Abbe Gavois of Renneville (Somme) France, whose hometown was in Paris in 1921, owned the oldest gasoline-driven car in Europe at the time. He sent Cusick a letter congratulating him on owning the world's oldest gasoline driven car. Gavois sent Cusick a photograph of his European automobile. On the dash of his car was inscribed the date 1891, leaving the Schloemer automobile the first gasoline-powered automobile existing since it was built in 1889.[13]

Meanwhile, back at the farm[edit]

Schloemer was not satisfied with the current method of plowing the farm fields so went about conceiving, with his son Andrew, a self-powered tractor to improve the situation. The new Schloemer tractor they patented was made with two plows, one on each end of the tractor. The back plow was lowered into the ground when going across the field to plow the dirt over. When the tractor reached the end of the field the plow was raised by a lever. Then the tractor was lined up into the next row without turning it around. The other plow on the opposite end of the tractor was lowered by a lever and the plowing commenced going back across the field. This procedure continued for plowing the complete field without once turning the tractor around. The Schloemer non-turning gasoline tractor was made in 1896, and has been claimed as the first gasoline tractor ever made, although John Froelich of Iowa's 1892 machine is also credited with this achievement.[25] The production of Schloemer's tractor was held up because of financial problems.[13]


Schloemer obituary
  • Schloemer is called the founder of the world's automobile industry.[13]
  • Schloemer is recognized as the designer of the first automobile muffler.[13]
  • Schloemer is labeled the father of the modern gasoline-powered automobile.[26][27]
  • Schloemer is recognized as the inventor of the modern day gasoline farm tractor.[13][28]
  • Schloemer is recognized as the person that led the first automobile parade in Milwaukee.[13]
  • Schloemer is recognized as the designer of the first combination differential and driving pinion.[13]
  • Schloemer is recognized as the designer of the first automobile in the world to run on gasoline.[9][14][17][20]
  • Schloemer is recognized as the first person to drive a gas-propelled automobile in a floral parade.[13]
  • Schloemer's "Motor Wagon" was recognized by the National Automobile Chamber of Commerce, Smithsonian Institution, and the Ford Motor Company as the first gas propelled automobile in the world.[29]
Schloemer tombstone.jpg


Schloemer is buried at St. Matthias Cemetery in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin.

A tombstone there reveals his birth date and death date.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i The Milwaukee Journal "bio" p. 8, Aug 2, 1892
  2. ^ The Milwaukee Journal, Nov 27, 1921 "Funeral for Inventor of Gas Auto Monday" The designer of the first gasoline-driven automobile in the world...
  3. ^ West Allis Star, Dec 1, 1921
  4. ^ a b c The Milwaukee Sentinel, page 1 part 3, Oct 13, 1988. (October 13, 1988). Retrieved on June 21, 2011.
  5. ^ a b The Milwaukee Sentinel, April 13, 1952, p. 2 Sec E; "A Frenchman did it". (April 12, 1952). Retrieved on June 21, 2011.
  6. ^ The Encyclopedia Americana (1954), Americana Corp. Volume 19, p. 142 Other Milwaukee inventors include Gottfried Schloemer and Frank Toepfer who built a gasoline automobile in 1889, claimed locally to have been the first one in the United States.
    • Industrial Commission (1958), pp. 121–122 Not only was the first practical gasoline-propelled automobile built in Wisconsin in 1889 by Gottfried Schloemer...
    • Clymer (1950), p. 153 It was inevitable that the first practical gasoline-powered car in the nation was built in Milwaukee in 1889 by Gottfried Schloemer...
    • May (1975), p. 21 Theirs was a crude vehicle that did, however work, after a fashion, and survives today in the Milwaukee Public Museum. Schloemer and Toepfer failed in their efforts to manufacture the Milwaukee car, one of several predecessors of the Duryea.
    • McClure (1922), p. 25 + But do you know who built the first automobile? The honor is now claimed for Gottfried Schloemer, who drove a strange, tiny "horseless buggy" of his own design and construction through the streets of Milwaukee, Wis., in 1889.
    • Geisst (2006), p. 27 Claimants during the early 1890s included Henry Nadig in Allentown, Pennsylvania (1891), John William Lambert in Ohio City, Ohio (1891), Gottfried Schloemer and Frank Toepfer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (1892), Charles H. Black in Indianapolis, Indiana (1893), and Elwood P. Haynes in Kokomo, Indiana (1894).
    • Encyclopaedia Britannica (1983), p. 517 The US Patent Office issued patents in September 1889 and April 1893 for three- wheeled gasoline-engine carriages, and Gottfried Schloemer of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1890 built a successful car that still exists...
  7. ^ The Pentwater News, April 4, 1930, p. 2 ; "First Automobile in America". (April 4, 1930). Retrieved on June 21, 2011.
  8. ^ a b Everyday Mysteries: Who invented the automobile?, Library of Congress website, 23 August 2010. Accessed 22 June 2011
  9. ^ a b The Duluth News Tribune, February 12, 1922, Volume: 23; Issue: 274; Page: 2; Location: Duluth, Minnesota, article: "Designer of First Auto Dies / Schloemer Claim Recognized", The designer of the first gasoline-driven automobile in the world, the inventor of the only combination driving pinion and differential ever made and the builder of the builder of the world's first tractor, is dead. Gottfried Schloemer, 80, who is credited with these achievements, died at his farm on Beloit Road last week, says a Milwaukee report. In 1889 Schloemer drew plans of the first gasoline engine. In 1890 this machine was traveling about the streets of Milwaukee. Schloemer's claim was recognized by the National Automobile Chamber of Commerce and the Smithsonian Institute [sic].
  10. ^ The Sheboygan Press-Telegram, Dec. 2, 1921, p. 1 The first gas-driven car in the world, it is claimed, was designed by a man named Godfrey Schloemer, who just died at his home near Milwaukee. And it is only 31 years ago that this first automobile was completed and given its first test.
  11. ^ "West Allis Star" obituary of Gottfrieb Schloemer: He was the designer of the first gasoline engine-driven automobile ever made.
  12. ^ Microfilm 58, Serial number M237, Family Identification # 50354
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m MAC, ''Milwaukee'' (magazine), Volume 1, No. 5, p. 12. Google Books (November 3, 2009). Retrieved on June 21, 2011.
  14. ^ a b c The Milwaukee Journal, November 22, 1936, p. 8 "Auto Show Section" ''Milwaukee Built First Motor Car But Shooed The Industry To Detroit''. (November 22, 1936). Retrieved on June 21, 2011.
  15. ^ Anderson (1952), p. 42
  16. ^ Newspaper: Milwaukee Telegram, August 6, 1922 ''How motor car grew from toy to world industry,'' p. 6. Retrieved on June 21, 2011.
  17. ^ a b Milwaukee Telegram, August 6, 1922, "How motor car grew from toy to world industry". Retrieved on June 21, 2011.
  18. ^ Rubenstein (1992), p. 26
  19. ^ Davies (2003), p. 234
  20. ^ a b The Milwaukee Sentinel, Oct 12, 1923 p. 2 "World's Oldest Auto Built by a Milwaukeean". (October 12, 1923). Retrieved on June 21, 2011.
  21. ^ The Milwaukee Journal, Jan 29, 1928, P. VI; "World's First Car at Museum". (January 29, 1928). Retrieved on June 21, 2011.
  22. ^ Lewis (1977), p. 48
  23. ^ History of Automobiles and Early Transmissions. (June 13, 2011). Retrieved on 2011-06-21.
  24. ^ Arizonia Republic The Ancestral Fliv, Dec 27, 1920, p. 13
  25. ^ Gasoline Tractor, Iowa Pathways, Iowa Public Television website. Accessed 22 June 2011
  26. ^ The Milwaukee Sentinel, April 21, 1925, p. 6 "Milwaukee's Bid for Fame". (April 21, 1925). Retrieved on June 21, 2011.
  27. ^ Milwaukee's Bid of Fame. Retrieved on June 21, 2011.
  28. ^ The Milwaukee Journal, Nov 27, 1921 Funeral for inventor of gas auto – Monday
  29. ^ The Milwaukee Journal, Dec 21, 1933 World's First Auto is Show Exhibit


  • Anderson, Rudolph E. (1952), The story of the American automobile: highlights and sidelights, Public Affairs Press.
  • Brook, Michael (1983), A supplement to Reference guide to Minnesota history: a subject bibliography, 1970–80, Minnesota Historical Society Press, ISBN 0-87351-160-3
  • Clymer, Floyd (1950), Treasury of early American automobiles, 1877–1925, McGraw-Hill
  • Davies, Pete (2003), American Road: The Story of an Epic Transcontinental Journey at the Dawn of the Motor Age, Macmillan, 2003, ISBN 0-8050-7297-7
  • Encyclopaedia Britannica (1983), "Automobile: the United States", in The New Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 2, ISBN 0-85229-400-X
  • Geisst, Charles R. (2006), Encyclopedia of American business history, Volume 2, Infobase Publishing, ISBN 0-8160-4350-7
  • Industrial Commission (1958), The Wisconsin blue book, Authors: Wisconsin. Legislature. Senate. Chief Clerk, Wisconsin. Legislature. Assembly. Chief Clerk, Wisconsin. Office of the Secretary of State, Wisconsin. Bureau of Labor and Industrial Statistics, Industrial Commission of Wisconsin, Wisconsin. State Printing Board, Wisconsin. Legislature. Legislative Reference Library, Wisconsin. Legislature. Legislative Reference Bureau
  • Lewis, Albert L. (1977), Automobiles of the world, Simon and Schuster, ISBN 0-671-22485-9
  • May, George S. (1975), A most unusual machine: the Michigan origins of the American automobile industry, Eerdmans.
  • McClure, Phillips (1922), Popular Science Monthly, Volume 100 (McClure, Phillips and Co.)
  • Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MAC) (Jan 1922), Milwaukee (magazine), Volume 1, No. 5,
  • Rubenstein, James M. (1992), The changing US auto industry: a geographical analysis, Psychology Press, ISBN 0-415-05544-X

External links[edit]