The Stanley twins were born on June 1, 1849, in Kingfield, Maine, and showedmechanical inclination even as young boys. In 1883, Francis developed a machine that coated dry photographic plates. After receiving a patent for their process, the brothers set up a factory in Newton, Massachusetts, to manufacturethe plates. In the summer of 1897, they attended a local fair where they witnessed a French inventor demonstrate his steam-driven car. Apparently impelled by his wife's inability to ride a bicycle, Francis vowed to build somethingthat his wife could ride. The French inventor's steam car was the impetus Francis needed. After the fair, the brothers began to develop a steam car of their own.
The brothers formed a car company in 1898 and produced their first steam car,which was dubbed The Flying Teapot. An instant success, the car was easy torun and achieved a top speed of 35 miles per hour (56 kph), quite fast for the turn of the century. Its major drawback was the need to stop every ten miles or so to refill the boiler. The brothers sold their company after only a few months, but they returned to the business of making cars in 1902 when theyformed the Stanley Motor Carriage Company. They staged various events to publicize their steam cars, including racing up mountains and racing against gas-powered cars. Eventually the Stanleys sold their photographic plate businessto George Eastman and concentrated on the manufacture of their steam cars, which came to be known unofficially as Stanley Steamers.
The brothers continued to build race-winning, steam-powered cars. In 1906, one of their cars--The Rocket, driven by Stanley employee Fred Marriott--set the world's record for the fastest mile: 28.2 seconds, which is a speed of morethan 127 miles per hour (204 kph). In 1918, Francis was killed while drivingone of his automobiles. He swerved to avoid an obstruction in a mountain road and plunged down an embankment near Ipswich, Massachusetts. At the time ofhis death, the Stanley Motor Company had been suspended automobile productionto manufacture engines to pump out Allied trenches during World War I. Afterthe war, Henry Ford's Model T soon came to dominate the American automobileindustry. Developments in gas-powered engines, and the limitations of steam cars, signalled the end of the steam-auto era. The Stanley Motor Carriage Company ceased production in 1924. Freelan Oscar Stanley died in 1940 in Boston.