July 01, 2022


Duryea Motor Wagon Co.
Springfield, Massachusetts (1893-1898)
Peoria, Illinois (1898-1899)
Duryea Power Co.
Reading, Pennsylvania (1900-1911)
Waterloo, Iowa (1902-1903)
Duryea Automobile Co.
Saginaw, Michigan (1911-1914)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1914-1915)
Reading, Pennsylvania (1916-1917)

This is a Duryea emblem (c1900)     mjs
Size: 61mm wide 24mm high

The Duryea was one of America's first gasoline motor cars. It started in Chicopee, Massachusetts, by brothers Charles E. and J. Frank Duryea and was completed by Frank Duryea after his brother moved to Peoria to build bicycles. The first Duryea had a 4hp single-cylinder engine underneath the carriage body and had friction drive. The first outdoor run took place in September 1893.

The second Duryea was built entirely by Frank Duryea and he drove it in the Chicago Times-Herald Contest of 1895. The Duryea won the race. It was Charles Duryea who, in 1895, organized America's first company to manufacture gasoline automobiles, the Duryea Motor Wagon Company of Springfield, Massachusetts. Thirteen cars with belt-drive were produced, two of which were sent to England for the London-to-Brighton Emancipation Run of 1896. The car driven by Frank Duryea was the first to arrive in Brighton.

Three-wheeler Duryea cars were produced in 1898 and the plant moved to Peoria. But the two brothers quarreled and their partnership was dissolved. Frank Duryea joined the Stevens Arms and Tool Company in Chicopee Falls to help make the Stevens-Duryea motor car (see Stevens-Duryea). Charles Duryea went to Reading, Pennsylvania and set up the Duryea Power Company and for the next seven years built three-cylinder, three-wheel (and occasional four-wheel) vehicles capable of 20 mph. The Duryea Power Company was taken over by receivers in 1907 after the production of about 300 vehicles, so Charles Duryea set up in a garage and developed the Buggyaut, a two-cylinder high-wheeler.

In 1911 Charles Duryea moved to Saginaw, Michigan to set up the Duryea Automobile Company to build his new Duryea Electra and some Buggyauts, and took over the Brooks delivery wagon business. He next tried a four-cylinder cyclecar, which was built for him by Cresson-Morris in Philadelphia. By 1917 Charles Duryea was back in Reading, Pennsylvania with a new financial backer and a new idea, the Duryea GEM, which had two wheels and the running gear at the back and one wheel in front. Duryea GEM production was probably no more than six cars. This was the last car produced by Charles Duryea.

Duryea also built some commercial vehicles but not on a regular production basis. The first recorded Duryea commercial vehicle was a light van built in 1899 and was based on the Duryea three-wheeler passenger car with a single front wheel. From about 1901 Duryea vans were four-wheel models and could be had up to 750-pound capacity by 1905. Later commercial models of the Duryea Buggyaut were offered. The final Duryea commercial was a 1/2-ton capacity high-wheeler van produced up to 1917.


It is not known whether the very first Duryea motor vehicles carried any identification but the Duryea motor wagon or runabout of 1896, which is closely similar to the 1893 Duryea, does carry a Duryea maker's plate combined with a serial plate, which was wrapped around the tiller post, see photos shown below. This is one of the earliest American motor vehicle nameplates and, if an original example could be found, it would be ultra rare.

This is a Duryea runabout showing tiller nameplate (1896) hfm

Duryea runabout with tiller nameplate (1896)   hfm

Close-up showing Duryea nameplate (1896)    hfm

The small brass "Duryea" nameplate emblem shown above at the top of this post and again below, is believed to have been displayed on a 1900 Duryea wagon, which may have been built in 1899 for the 1900 model year. This Duryea nameplate emblem is extremely rare.

This is a Duryea nameplate emblem (c1900)    mjs
Size: 61mm wide 24mm high

Duryea motor vehicles produced by the Duryea Power Company in Reading, Pennsylvania from 1900, displayed the "Duyea" name on a small brass maker's nameplate and on a separate, similar sized serial plate both attached to the vehicle body, either at the rear or under the driver's seat.

The following is an example of a Duryea maker's nameplate and is extremely rare:

This is a Duryea maker's nameplate (1900-1911)   bmhv

The following is an example of a Duryea Power Company serial plate and is extremely rare:

This is a Duryea Power Company serial plate (1900-1911)   bmhv

The following is Duryea Power Company serial plate number 3 and is ultra rare:

This is Duryea Power Company serial plate No. 3 (1900)  rsc

Emblem and nameplate collectors should beware, as there are reproduction Duryea nameplates and serial plates, which are difficult to identify, except by comparison with a known original plate.

The "Duryea" name was also displayed on the step plates and hubcaps, see examples shown below:

This is a Duryea step plate (1900-1901)   bmhv

This is a Duryea hubcap (1901)    bmhv

This is a Duryea Power Company hubcap (1904)  bmhv

The following surviving Duryea three-wheeled phaeton built in 1903 has the "Duryea" name embroidered on the leather travel bags under the front of the seats, see below:

Duryea three-wheeled phaeton (1903)   nam

Duryea travel bags (1903)   nam

Some surviving Duryea Buggyauts from 1907 display the "Duryea" name on scripts either in the form of decals or painted on the front of the dash, see example shown below. It is not known, if similar scripts were attached originally or, if these were later additions made during restoration.

This is a Duryea Buggyaut with dash script (1907)  carandclassic

The following surviving Duryea Electra from late 1910 has the "Duryea" name displayed in a metal script on the front of the dash. This example appears to be unrestored and the script may be original but I cannot confirm this:

This is a Duryea Electra with dash script (1910)   caam

Close-up showing Duryea script on the dash (1910)    caam

The following surviving Duryea Gem from 1917 has the "Duryea" name impressed into the body of the vehicle:

This is a Duryea Gem with embossed name in the body (1917) bmhv

"Duryea" name impressed into the Duryea Gem body (1917) 

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