George B. Selden

George B. Selden

George B. Selden (September 14, 1846 in Clarkson, New York – January 17, 1922 in Rochester, New York) was a lawyer and inventor who was granted the first U.S. patent for an automobile, which he invented in 1877.

The idea of a horseless carriage was in the air during George's youth, but its practicality was uncertain. In 1859, his father, Judge Henry R. Selden, a prominent Republican attorney most noted for defending Susan B. Anthony, moved to Rochester, New York, where George briefly attended the University of Rochester before dropping out to enlist in the Sixth U.S. Cavalry, Union Army. This was not to the liking of his father who after pulling some strings and having some earnest discussions with his son managed to have him released from duty and enrolled in Yale. George did not do well at Yale in his law studies, preferring the technical studies offered by the Sheffield Scientific School, but did manage to finish his course of study and pass the New York bar 1871 and joined his father's practice.

He married shortly thereafter to Clara Drake Woodruff, by whom he had 4 children. He continued his hobby of inventing in a workshop in his father's basement, inventing a typewriter and a hoop making machine.

For a time, Selden represented photography pioneer George Eastman in patent matters.

The Selden Patent

:"See also Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers"Inspired by the mammoth internal combustion engine invented by George Brayton displayed at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876, Selden began working on a smaller lighter version, succeeding by 1878, some eight years before the public introduction of the Benz Patent Motorwagen in Europe, in producing a one cylinder 400 pound version which featured an enclosed crankshaft with the help of Rochester machinist, Frank H. Clement and his assistant William Gomm. He filed for a patent on May 8, 1879. His application included not only the engine but its use in a 4 wheeled car. He then filed a series of amendments to his application which stretched out the process resulting in a delay of 16 years before the patent cite patent|US|549160 [ pdf] was granted on November 5, 1895.

Shortly thereafter the fledgling American auto industry began its first efforts and George Selden, despite never having gone into production with a working model of an automobile, had a credible claim to have patented the automobile. In 1899 he sold his patent rights to William C. Whitney, who proposed manufacturing electric powered taxicabs as the Electric Vehicle Company, EVC, for a royalty of $15 per car with a minimum annual payment of $5,000. Whitney and Selden then worked together to collect royalties from other budding automobile manufacturers. He was initially successful, negotiating a 0.75% royalty on all cars sold by the Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers, the ALAM. He began his own car company in Rochester under the name, Selden Motor Vehicle Company.

However, Henry Ford, owner of the Ford Motor Company, founded in Detroit, Michigan in 1903, and four other car makers resolved to contest the patent infringement suit filed by Selden and EVC. The legal fight lasted 8 years generating a case record of 14,000 pages. The case was heavily publicized in the newspapers of the day and ended in a victory for Selden. In his decision, the judge wrote that the patent covered any automobile propelled by an engine powered by gasoline vapor. Posting a bond of $350,000, Ford appealed and on January 10, 1911 won his case based on an argument that the engine used in automobiles was not based on George Brayton's engine, the Brayton engine which Selden had improved, but on the Otto engine.

This stunning defeat, with only 1 year left to run on the patent, destroyed Selden's income stream. He focused production of his car company on trucks, renaming his company the Selden Truck Sales Corporation. It survived in that form until 1930 when it was purchased by the Bethlehem Truck Company. Selden suffered a stroke in 1921 and died at 78 on January 17, 1922. He was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester. It is estimated he received several hundred thousand dollars in royalties.


Based on pages 184-199 of "The Mayflower Murderer & Other Forgotten Firsts in American History", Peter F. Stevens, William Morrow, hardcover, 272 pages, ISBN 0-688-11818-6. Published simultaneously on Wikinfo.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • George Baldwin Selden — George B. Selden in seinem Auto George Baldwin Selden (* 14. September 1846 in Clarkson, New York; † 17. Januar 1922 in Rochester, New York) war Patentanwalt und Erfinder. Bekannt wurde er durch das nach ihm benannte Selden Patent und gründete… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Selden — is a surname, and may refer toPeople* Anjelica Selden, an American softballer * Armistead I. Selden * Brian Selden, winner of the 1998 Magic: The Gathering World Championship * Catherine Selden, Gothic novelist of the early 19th century * David… …   Wikipedia

  • Selden Motor Vehicle Company — Selden PKW Modell 25 Die Selden Motor Vehicle Company war ein US amerikanischer Kraftfahrzeughersteller. Das Unternehmen wurde 1906 in Rochester, New York gegründet. Die Firma produzierte von 1907 bis 1912 Personenkraftwagen und von 1913 bis 1930 …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • George Selden — may refer to: *George B. Selden, American inventor *George Selden (author), American children s writer …   Wikipedia

  • Selden — bezeichnet mehrere Personen: Armistead Inge Selden junior (1921–1985), US amerikanischer Politiker George Baldwin Selden (1846 1922) US amerikanischer Erfinder, Patentanwalt und Unternehmer Henry R. Selden (1805–1885), US amerikanischer… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • George Brayton — (October 3, 1830 ndash; December 17, 1892) was born in Rhode Island, son of William H. and Minerva (Bailey) Brayton [Hopkins, Hannah Clarke Bailey, Records of the Bailey family : descendants of William Bailey of Newport, R.I., chiefly in the line …   Wikipedia

  • Selden Motor Vehicle Company — The Selden Motor Vehicle Company was an early American manfucturer of automobiles. The Company, founded in 1905, was based in Rochester, New York. History The Selden Motor Vehicle Company was named for inventor George B. Selden, whose 1877 patent …   Wikipedia

  • George Selden (author) — George Selden Thompson (1929 1989) was an American author. BiographyGeorge Selden (May 14, 1929, Hartford, Connecticut – December 5, 1989, New York City, New York) [cite news | title=George Selden, 60, Writer of Tales Describing a Cricket s… …   Wikipedia

  • Selden Palmer Spencer — Selden P. Spencer Selden Palmer Spencer (* 16. September 1862 in Erie, Pennsylvania; † 16. Mai 1925 in Washington D.C.) war ein US amerikanischer Politiker (Republikanische Partei …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • George W. Taylor (professor) — George W. Taylor (July 10, 1901 December 15, 1972) was a notable professor of industrial relations at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and is credited with founding the academic field of study known as industrial… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.