18. Francis Edgar Stanley invented the iconic Stanley Steamer car with his brother – and then died when he crashed into a woodpile
At the beginning of the 20th century, the Stanley Steamer was one of America’s most popular – and most iconic – automobiles. They were the brainchild of early motoring pioneers Freelan O. Stanley and his brother Francis Edgar Stanley. The pair set up the Stanley Motor Carriage Company in 1902, using money that had made from selling their photographic plate firm to Kodak. And their Stanley Steamer was their most popular model, thanks in no small part to the brothers’ expert marketing. Freelan made headlines by being the first person to drive to the top of Mount Washington. Then, in 1906, a Stanley Steamer smashed the land speed record, reaching a speed of 204kmph.
Nobody knows just how fast Francis was driving his own Stanley Steamer when he crashed into a pile of logs in July of 1918. According to the witnesses, the automobile pioneer swerved off the road in an attempt to avoid some horse-pulled farm wagons. After his brother’s death, Freelan decided to sell his share in the company. The Stanley Motor Carriage Company only lasted a few more years. By the mid-1920s, the Ford Model T was much more popular. Not only was it better than the Stanley Steamer, Ford’s famous car was much cheaper too. The family factory closed its doors for good in 1924.