Wilkinson Scrapbook Article #33

In this article from William Wilkinson’s scrapbook “One Hundred Great and Near-Great Events, Person and Places in Rochester History” (1947) he writes about George Selden’s patent on the automobile. Selden only made 2 full size models of his auto, but that wasn’t until 1905, 20 years after the patent was finally filed. One of those models has ended up at the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan.


In 1879 an event of far reaching importance to the automobile industry of the United States occured. George B. Selden, a Rochester lawyer, applied for a patent on an automobile which used an internal combustion engine. By cleverly delaying the application in the Patent Office, the patent was not issued until Nov. 5, 1895. In 1899 the Columbia and Electric Vehicle Company secured the exclusive rights to manufacture automobiles under the Selden patent. Later, in 1905, an association of licensed automobile manufacturers was formed. The members of which agreed to pay 1.25 percent on all cars made. This was later cut down, first to 1 percent, and later to 4/5 of 1 percent. At one time 90 percent of the cars were manufactured under the Selden patents on licenses. The largest auto manufacturers, the Ford, objected to paying this royalty and a trial lasting 8 years ensued. The first decision, in June 1909, favored Selden but the second decision in 1911. set aside the Selden patent and this left the automobile field free to anyone who wished to enter it. George B.Selden is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery.

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