Monadnock Moments No. 6: Hinsdale's Auto Pioneer
In 1875, one of the earliest automobiles in the United States was built in Hinsdale, New Hampshire. George Long, the inventor of this auto, was a resident of Northfield, Massachusetts. But a proper workshop was not available in that town, so Long came to New Hampshire where he worked on his project in the machine shop of Holman and Merriman in downtown Hinsdale.
Long got the idea for his auto from a three-wheel vehicle which he had seen at a fair in Brattleboro in 1862. After experimenting for some time with kerosene, powdered coal, and gunpowder, he finally discovered that charcoal was the best fuel to fire the steam boiler that would power his vehicle.
Long’s vehicle had a bicycle type frame, wooden wheels, and a driving gear in the rear axle. It could travel thirty miles an hour, roads permitting, which they seldom were.
When Long drove his auto into Northfield, he was ordered to “take it off the streets as it scared horses, astounded citizens and was considered a menace to public safety.” Despite this discouragement, Long continued to drive his early auto, but was forced to travel the back roads at night to avoid detection. He also continued his experimenting and later patented one of the first gasoline automobiles, which now resides in the Smithsonian Institution.