The American Mercedes

The American Mercedes
by Daimler Manufacturing Co.

In 1982 Mercedes-Benz of North America reprinted a rare 1906 booklet by Daimler Manufacturing Co., who built American Mercedes cars on Long Island.It brings to life this long-dormant U.S. partnership with Steinway (of piano fame). Describes the cars, engineering features, and relationship with Daimler in Germany. The original which is a small hardback is so rare that Mercedes themselves do not have one and has been seen for sale at $2000. The factory burnt down in 1907 and no more cars were made in America, although recently a Mercedes SUV has been made here.


  IT IS a distinct pleasure for us to publish this exact copy of a brochure issued in New York in 1906 on the American Mercedes automobile. We do so with the feeling that the 59,000 owners of Mercedes-Benz automobiles in the U.S., and many of our friends, will find it interesting to read about the first Mercedes cars in this country.
  Some weeks ago, we ran across the original in the Thomas McKean Automobile Reference Collection in Philadelphia. It was tattered and yellow with age–the last bit of printed material covering these early contemporary automobiles–and we found it intriguing to go back 56 years, almost to the beginning of the Automobile Era in America.
  The history of the American Mercedes automobile actually commenced in 1888 when William Steinway, the prominent New York piano-maker, paid a visit to Europe and, while traveling there, chanced to hear that Gottlieb Daimler in Cannstatt, Germany, was experimenting with self-propelled vehicles. Steinway was sufficiently intrigued with this report that he paid a visit to Daimler and later wrote in his diary that he had ridden "across the country" in one of Daimler's motorized quadricycles. Steinway was a man of imagination and vision, and he forthwith secured the American patent rights to Daimler engines and vehicles and, upon his return to the U. S., incorporated the so-called Daimler Motor Company.

  Although Steinway had foreseen a large market in the United States for Daimler motorized carriages, the first real activity of the newly formed company was to issue a brochure featuring elaborate illustrations of boats and streetcars powered by Daimler engines. By 1892-93 the Marine Department was one of the more successful aspects of the Daimler Motor Company.
  The first Daimler motors ranged from 1 to 4 horse. power and were manufactured in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1890, in the Board of Trade Building, now a part of the Underwood Typewriter Company's plant.

  Steinway's failure to plunge deeply into the automobile business immediately upon his return from Germany in 1888 was directly attributable to the rutted dirt roads unsuitable for the new motorized road vehicles. There were, as a matter of fact, only some 15,000 miles of surfaced roads in the United States in 1906.
  Following Steinway's death in 1896, the Daimler Motor Company was reorganized and emerged as the Daimler Manufacturing Company. By 1900 the company had imported eight different styles of Daimler, Panhard, and Levassor motorized wagons, and its first manufacturing efforts produced delivery trucks, two of which were purchased for use as small animal ambulances by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

  By 1905, The Daimler Manufacturing Company announced that it would market an exact reproduction of the 40-50 horsepower Mercedes built by the parent company, Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft of Untertuerkheim, Germany. Many of the materials and components, it was said, were to be imported from Untertuerkheim and the car was to be assembled at Steinway, Long Island. The following year the company offered the 1906 Mercedes "with improvements," some of which brought the car closer to the modern day concept of an automobile, rather than a horseless carriage. Looking back to 1906, it is interesting to make some "then and now" comparisons. For example, the 1906 American Mercedes was equipped with a 45 HP engine and, although it had neither top, side-curtains, nor windshield, the price tag was $7500. Curiously enough, the standard body color of the 1906 Mercedes was red, although certain optional colors were available upon request. (Today a 90 HP, fully equipped Mercedes-Benz delivers in New York for less than $4000, and 34 different body colors are available.)
  In 1906, the average weekly wage for people em. ployed in the automobile industry was $12.00 as opposed to $113.00 in 1960.
  In 1906, 33,200 automobiles were built in the U. S., and in the period since then some 184,000,000 more have been produced in this country. Indeed, currently more than 4,000,000 automobiles and trucks are sent to the scrap heap each year!
  In the 56 years since 1906, times and automobiles have changed greatly. It seems hardly possible, but some 2200 different makes of automobiles have appeared on and then vanished from the American scene. So far as Mercedes-Benz is concerned, we take some pride in the fact that Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz invented the world's first two practical automobiles and the company bearing their names has en. dured all these years and stands today in the forefront of the world's producers of quality cars.
  Interestingly enough, certain features of the 1906 Mercedes are as sound today as they were then and can be found in 1962 Mercedes automobiles. To name a few: aluminum body parts (190SL and 300SL models), hollow crankshaft for pressure oil system, drop forgings, forged axle shafts and aluminum castings used in engine construction. To be sure, the differences of design and construction between then and now are much greater than the similarities–unitized construction, fuel injection, high compression engines, swing axle and overhead camshafts, were all unknown in 1906.
  In 1906, automobiles were equipped with neither electric lights nor horns, and one of the night-time driving rules of the period required motorists to stop their machines every mile and shoot off Roman candles to warn drivers of horses that a "gasoline buggy" was in the neighborhood.

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  We hope you will enjoy having this copy of the 1906 American Mercedes brochure. The era has passed but a name survives and the excitement and joy of good automobiles remain a vital part of our every day.


Exclusive Distributor of Mercedes-Benz Automobiles in the U. S. A.

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