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The Plass was an American automobile manufactured only in 1897 by Reuben H Plass.


Reuben Hopkins Plass was born in Hudson, New York about 1840.[1] His father was John T Plass. At the beginning of the Civil War on 26 April 1861 he was a Lieutenant in Company A of the 7th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment.[1] After serving for a few months, on 3 June, he returned to work for his father during the war making cannon and gun blocks.[1] He claimed to have built his first car in the 1860s. He held patents from 1869 for a velocipede and 1874 for a gas governor.[2] After the war, Plass and his father manufacturered bandsaws.[3] Between 1893 and 1895 Plass unsuccessfully sought appointment as a Consul-General to Cuba.[4]

In 1897 Plass invented a luminous lifeline for night use in sea rescues.[5] By January 1899 Plass was bankrupt.[6] In June he was present at the forming of the Automobile Club of America.[7]

Plass fell ill in 1904 and died from this illness on August 27, 1907 in Kings County, New York aged 67 years old. His wife, Isabella Caroline James, survived him.[1]

Vehicle and designs[edit]

The Plass was a rear-engined phaeton with an L-shaped tiller designed to be steered by either hand or foot.

The same year Plass designed and patented a self-propelled sleigh with centre wheels and runners at the front and rear, an idea reasonably similar to the concept of modern snowmobiles.[8] Whether he made one is unknown.

In 1899 he patented a single seat dog-cart design with a mid engine,[9]


  1. ^ a b c d "Reuben Hopkins Plass". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, New York. August 28, 1907. p. 3. Retrieved September 15, 2015 – via open access
  2. ^ retrieved 15 September 2015
  3. ^ retrieved 15 September 2015
  4. ^ "Would be Consul Generals alleged agreement with an investor". The Sun, New York. January 12, 1897. p. 1. Retrieved September 15, 2015 – via open access
  5. ^ Miscellaneous. Daily Telegraph, Issue 9070, 22 January 1898, Page 2
  6. ^ "Voluntary bankrupts". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, New York. January 20, 1899. p. 3. Retrieved September 15, 2015 – via open access
  7. ^ Automobile Club formed, The New York Times, June 8, 1899
  8. ^ retrieved 15 September 2015
  9. ^ retrieved 15 September 2015

David Burgess Wise, The New Illustrated Encyclopedia of Automobiles.