We’ve all made that list of which books (or CDs or movie stars) we’d want to have if stuck on a desert island. But if you thought that choice was tough, here’s the real challenge: which two cars would you put on display to represent the American automotive industry?
That’s the question curators at the Smithsonian Institution were asking themselves when they began preparing a new exhibit for the National Museum of American History. They’re ducking the issue by turning the question over to the public, asking them to vote as part of what they’ve dubbed the “Race to the Museum.”
The folks at the Smithsonian have narrowed the choices down to eight models that cover most of the first century of the American auto industry – indeed, offering up an 1880 steam-powered trike, built in Massachusetts, that significantly predates the 1896 Duryea that most experts cite as the start of U.S. automotive manufacturing.
Another early offering is the 1894 Balzer, a primitive 4-wheeler that was the first automobile to navigate the streets of New York. It was built by a Tiffany-trained watchmaker.