A true ‘snapshot’ here: taken on what must have been an early spring day, the lady is fashionably yet warmly dressed, but she hides much of what especially interests us – the early closed motor car behind. It is a fair guess that it was her car. As to the location, we cannot even make a guess. There is no information on the reverse: the photograph was purchased recently in Munich.
But sufficient of this vehicle with its closed yet light and airy coachwork can be seen for us to be confident that it is an electric town car, a type of vehicle offered by a number of principally American makers from the early Edwardian period. Most of them had abandoned town cars of this type by the later 1920s; diversified, or gone out of business.
There’s not much literature that focuses on electric cars. Antique and Classic Cars by Joe H Wherry (1960), a cheap (75 cents) soft-back magazine-type publication from Trend Books of Los Angeles (Trend Book 193) has a good chapter on electric private cars through time, but the illustrations do not confirm the make of this week’s ‘Snapshot’. The ever-astonishing Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805 – 1942 very helpfully includes listings not only of steam- and electric-powered makes of car but also a few powered by compressed air and even a couple of spring-powered cars! The latter being the Andrews and the Burdick. Somewhere between 100 and 150 makes of electrics are listed, and working on the basis that the better-known makes are more commonly to be found, a short list of candidates was devised for closer inspection. Detroit Electric; Edison Electric; Columbia Electric; Waverley Electric – all these and others did not give the required match. Wood artillery wheels seem to have been a less common feature, most makes favouring wire wheels, and ‘our’ car has distinctive large wheel hubs.
Gold was struck when the Rauch & Lang entry was checked. This manufacturer, in Cleveland Ohio from 1905 to 1920 and thereafter until closure in 1928 at Chicopee Falls in Massachusetts, provided the match with their Model C-45 of 1920, this despite these vehicles changing very little in appearance through the years. They were major makers of electric cars, and it is quoted that 500 were sold in 1908, a year when they still held a further 300 unfulfilled orders. Declining sales led to a merger with a former rival – Baker Electric, in 1915. In 1920, Stevens-Duryea then bought them out and relocated production as above.
The electric carriage lamps are a feature. Limited battery range restricted the use of cars of this type to short local runs, but their ease of control was an attraction. It seems that the Eisenhower Museum in Abilene, Kansas, preserves a 1914 Rauch & Lang that had belonged to the President’s mother-in-law.