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The Plass was an American vehicle manufactured in 1895 by Reuben H Plass.[1]


Reuben Hopkins Plass was born in Hudson, New York around the year 1840.[2] 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.[2] After serving for a few months, on 3 June, he returned to work for his father, John T. Plass, during the war making cannon and gun blocks.[2] 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.[3] After the war, Plass and his father manufactured bandsaws. 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 at the age of 67. His wife, Isabella Caroline James, survived him.[2]

Vehicle and designs[edit]

The Plass patent was for a rear-engined phaeton with an L-shaped tiller designed to be steered by either hand or foot. In 1895 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] In 1899 he patented a single seat dog-cart design with a mid engine.[9]


  1. ^ Kimes, Beverly Rae; Clark Jr., Henry Austin (1996). Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805-1942 (3rd ed.). Krause Publications. ISBN 978-0-87341-428-9.
  2. ^ 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
  3. ^ "Patents for Reuben H. Plass". 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. ^ "Self-propelling vehicle". Retrieved 15 September 2015.
  9. ^ "Self-propelling vehicle". Retrieved 15 September 2015.