Early Pioneers in the automobile business were usually just inventors. Some of them only made a few cars or automobiles, and although they were the front runners in the business, they usually didn’t make much money from it.
1860 - Roper
Sylvester H. Roper was an inventor fascinated with machines from an early age. He made a steam engine at the age of 12 without ever having seen one before. Later, around 1860, he built a steam carriage and rode in it around town. Later in the 1860s, he invented the steam velocipede, the earliest motorcycle. His vehicles were on demonstration in 1870 where they were billed as “The Greatest Mechanical Exhibition in the World”. Roper worked on other projects and held several patents in the shotgun industry. He died in 1896 while riding one of his steam velocipedes. His early steam velocipede is on display at the Smithsonian
1861 - are Steam Wagon
The Ware Steam Wagon was manufactured in the 1860s by Elijah Ware. One of wagons is noted for being the first to be exported. A priest from Prince Edward Island in Canada was the buyer.
1963 - Duryea
Duryea, in 1893, was one of the first gasoline automobile manufacturers. Frank and Charles Duryea turned out their first car in 1893. In 1895 one of their cars, driven by Frank, became the first to ever finish and win a race. They built cars in the 1890s together, but then had a falling out. Frank and designed and built the original car, but Charles said that he was heavily involved. Frank left and later helped start another company, while Charles continued to build the Duryea until 1917 or so.
1893 - Elmore Manufacturing Company
Start in 1893, the Elmore Manufacturing Company, founded by James and Burton Becker, manufactured cars from 1893 through 1912. They made some of the most inexpensive cars available on the market at the turn of the century. In 1909, they were bought out by General Motors, then a few years later cut production in an effort to make General Motors more financially stable.
1894 - Balzar
In the 1890s Stephen Balzar attempted to run a machine shop turning out products based on his patents. One of these was the automobile. He developed the first car seen in New York with an engine that he designed. One of his engines was bought for an attempt to make a flying machine, but proived inadequate for the task. Balzar tried to fix the design, insisting that his design would work, and later went bankrupt.
1894 - Morris & Salom
The Morris & Salom Company manufactured electric cars from 1894 to 1897, in New York City. They sold their company to the Electric Vehicle Company. The Electric Vehicle Company sold over 2000 cars, focusing on the cab business, but with competition from gas powered cars, and the low performance of the electric cars, they were unable to compete and were out of business by 1907.
1895 - Barrows Vehicle Company
Not much is known about the Barrows Electric Company. They manufactured a two seater electric powered three wheeled vehicle. The claims in their ads for the power of the vehicle seem to be inflated. They were out of business by 1899.
1895 - De La Vergne
This was a car built from 1895 to 1896 by the New York Refrigerating Company. It was designed by La Vergne, and based on the Benz. The Benz was a car in Europe, and was the start of the Mercedes-Benz company. La Vergne later is noted for working of cyclecars. Cyclecars were cheap lightweight cars built for affordability and to get around tax and license fees on regular cars.
From 1896 to 1930, there were over 1800 automobile companies started. As you can see from the list above, some only lasted a few years, and on some there is very little information. Very few companies survived to become major automobile manufacturers.