Alexander Winton immigrated to the United States from Scotland in 1878. He was only twenty-two years old when he settled in Cleveland, Ohio, and began to manufacture bicycles at the Winton Bicycle Company. By the mid-1890s, Winton became 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, he became known for the first commercial sale of an automobile in the United States.
Like many automobile manufacturers, Winton used races and cross-country tours to promote his product and test innovations in designs. The first cross-country automobile trip was completed in a Winton in 1903. In its first year of production, Winton's company built and sold twenty-two of his automobiles, and the following year the number climbed to more than one hundred. Winton became known for his innovations in automotive design, ultimately registering more than one hundred patents. He is credited with giving Henry Ford access to his own steering design before a race in 1901, which contributed to Ford becoming a major name in automobile design and manufacturing.
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.
Although no more Wintons were built after 1924, Winton himself continued to be important in the development of both gasoline and diesel engines. Winton had established the Winton Engine Company in 1912, which later became known as the Winton Engine Corporation. In 1930, this corporation became a subsidiary of General Motors Corporation.