Steering Wheel

From Ohio History Central

By the mid-1890s, Alexander Winton, a bicycle manufacturer in Cleveland, Ohio, had become interested in designing an automobile. He built his first motorized vehicle in 1896. It looked rather strange by modern-day standards, as Winton used bicycle tires in his first design. He organized the Winton Motor Carriage Company on March 15, 1897, and on March 24, 1898, became known for the first commercial sale of an automobile in the United States of America.

Winton became famous for his innovations in automotive design, ultimately registering more than one hundred patents. He is credited with building the first car with a steering wheel. Prior to the advent of the steering wheel, automobile manufacturers utilized a lever device, which was known as the steering tiller. This made steering cars very strenuous and difficult. Winton's steering wheel gave drivers increased control over their automobiles. In 1901, Winton gave competitor Henry Ford access to his own steering design before an automobile race. Ford's car won the competition with Winton's steering wheel.

Although Winton was known as an innovator, as the automobile industry became more competitive in the 1920s, his business was unable to compete. Every Winton automobile was custom made. Assembly lines made other companies' vehicles less expensive to build. In 1924, Winton stopped producing automobiles entirely.

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