What Happened to the Electric Car? Buy a Rauch and Lang Coupe (1909)
Here’s a great old advertisement from the Sunday Washington Times, on Halloween, 1909. Interested in buying an electric car? Well it’ll only take $1,500 and you could be the proud owner of a Rauch & Lang Electric. I apologize, but the thumbnail photo for this post is actually a 1914 Rauch & Lang. I’m sure you already knew that. I just wanted full disclosure.
They only made about 500 cars per year — Ford currently makes about two million a year — so if you owned one today, I’m sure it would be worth quite a bit. The cars were originally manufactured in Cleveland between 1905 and 1920, when they moved their factory to Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts (cool town name, read about it here). That was the year they were acquired by the Stevens-Duryea company and it was the beginning of the end. They made their last car in 1928.
This Washington dealer was on 17th St. NW, right where the Farragut West metro entrance is. Here’s a little excerpt from the ad:
Every part of these cars is made in the factory and it takes an experienced carriage builder three months to complete a body and then twenty-four coats of paint are applied. Our motors with the same battery equipment will use less current, and the Palmer web tires, which are our regular equipment, give greater mileage than any others. These cars give entire satisfaction in Pittsburg and Kansas City, two of the hilliest cities in the country. Sixty-five of these electrics have been sold in Kansas City this year. The best indications of its class are in the people who handle it. Flondrau of New York, and Brewster refer all electric inquiries to them, and Kimball, of Chicago, puts his own name on them. When the three best known carriage people in the country indorse [sic] these cars they must have merit. The most complete line of electrics made.
I’m sold. If 65 people in Kansas City bought it, I want one.
Now, the entry-level model was $1,500 and remember that a typical house in Columbia Heights could be built for between $2,000 and $5,000 (read about that here). So that is a serious amount of money for a car. No wonder so few people had them until Henry Ford really democratized the automobile by introducing the assembly line, driving the prices way down.
No offense Kansas City. I love the Royals, Bret Saberhagen and George Brett.