The year 1909 was an eventful period; the Indianapolis Motor Speedway opened, the first Lincoln Head pennies were minted, and the Great White Fleet returned to Norfolk, Virginia, after circumnavigating the globe. Closer to home, automobile manufacturer Locomobile continued to offer superbly built road machines tailored to affluent buyers of discriminating taste. In business since 1899, the firm had a rocky start, yet quickly moved into crafting state of the art automobiles. The back story of the company reads like a screenplay.
Locomobile started with John Brisben Walker, owner of Cosmopolitan magazine and an entrepreneur. In 1899, while attending a hillclimb competition at Mount Washington in New Hampshire, Walker was impressed with the performance of the Stanley brothers’ prototype vehicle. Powered by steam, the car’s abundant torque gave it the edge on steep grades. Within days, John Walker was in the Stanleys’ Watertown, Massachusetts, shop with an offer to buy half the company. The brothers declined the offer. Two months later, Walker was back, now wanting to purchase the entire firm. Another refusal, but Walker was persistent. The brothers conferred in a corner of the shop, then presented Walker with a number—$250,000 in cash. To their amazement, Walker agreed. He paid them $10,000 to seal the deal, then he scrambled to raise the rest of the money within ten days.
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