December 30, 2016


The Autotri Co. (1898)

Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

This is an Autotri nameplate (1898)    mjs
Size: 78mm wide 30mm high   MM: None

Cadwallader Washburn Kelsey built his first car in 1897 at age 17. The next year, while at college, Kelsey and his friend, Sheldon Tilney, built a second car, powered by a single-cylinder 5 hp engine. It had two wheels in front and one wheel at the rear and was called the Autotri. Production of the Autotri was planned and a nameplate was designed and made but production of the Autotri did not happen. The prototype Autotri is now held by the Smithsonian Institution.

Kelsey continued to experiment with car designs and some years later he produced the Motorette and then the Kelsey car using a special friction drive (see Kelsey).


The nameplate shown above was made for the planned production of the Autotri but was never attached to the prototype. It is perhaps the earliest known use of a logo for an American car and is extremely rare.

A photo of a board of emblems from the John Weis emblem collection and illustrated on the cover of the Sept-Oct 1975 edition of the Antique Automobile shows an Autotri emblem, see below:

John Weis emblem board with Autotri bottom right side   ms

Close-up of the Autotri emblem    ms

 Autotri emblem in the John Weis collection in 1975   ms
Size: 78mm wide 30mm high overall   MM: Unknown

The Autotri emblem shown above is based on the logo design displayed on the Autotri nameplate shown at the top of this listing. John Weis says that the emblem was made of brass but further details are unknown. There is no evidence that this emblem was made in 1898 and this is most unlikely. Keith Marvin carried out extensive research into Cadwallader Kelsey and his motor vehicles. Marvin confirmed that the nameplate shown at the top of this listing was made for the 1898 Autotri but makes no reference to an emblem. More probably it was made much later, possibly by Harry Pulfer, who included a drawing of the emblem in his Emblem Survey.

John Weis does not recall what happened to this emblem when he sold off his collection. If somebody now has the emblem or has a better photo, please send details to update this listing.

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