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August - Gas Over Steam

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

The first US president to ever ride in an automobile was President William McKinley.

The Ohioan’s venture took place in 1899 when he participated in a demonstration by Freelan Stanley showcasing a steam-powered automobile. During that era the prevalence of motorized vehicles as a conventional means of transportation was far from certain, and McKinley had no way of knowing the ride would secure his legacy as the first motorized

president. His second and final ride was on September 6, 1901. While visiting the World's Fair in Buffalo, New York, McKinley was shot. He was swiftly transported to a nearby infirmary, this time in an electric-powered ambulance. McKinley died 8 days later.

Motorization continued to advance and the gasoline-powered engine was introduced as an option. During the late 19th to early 20th centuries, there was ongoing debate regarding the most effective means of powering the advancing modes of transportation. Several factors influenced the decision to prioritize gasoline over steam and electricity as the primary fuel for early automobile manufacturers. A steam car took a half hour to warm up before driving. Battery technology at that time had a notably lower energy density compared to gasoline. Additionally, as the Model T entered mass production, gasoline engines proved simpler to manufacture compared to electric drivetrains, aligning with Ford's pragmatic business strategy.


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