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Thread: Orukter Amphibolos, America's first automobile

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    Orukter Amphibolos, America's first automobile

    The Orukter Amphibolos ("Amphibious Digger") was America's first car. Its maiden voyage was on July 13th, 1805.

    The Orukter Amphibolos was built by Oliver Evans. Evans was a brilliant and prolific inventor, whom history has not recognized as well as it should. This may be because, in addition to being an extraordinary visionary, he was also a litigious and crotchety curmudgeon.

    The Orukter Amphibolos:


    Evans was a serious steam fanatic, and his high-pressure steam engine powered not just Orukter Amphibolos, but many of the inventions made by himself and others. His greatest contributions were likely to the milling industry. Grain was previously transported around mills by hand, but Evans invented a system that was essentially the first production assembly line. Evans created the machinery that allowed automated movement of grain through a mill, rather than on mens' backs. This was the beginnings of industrial automation that would later be made famous by Henry Ford. This efficiency is what led to most bread in America being produced at scale, by machines, at lower cost than home-baked bread.

    Evans's automated flour mill:


    Anyway, Evans was contracted by the city of Philadelphia to create a scow for dredging their dockyards. He built the Orukter Amphibolos, a steam-engined paddle wheel-powered boat that employed a chain-of-buckets system (like his automated mills) for dredging. It was about 30 feet long, weighed 17 tons, and was powered by his cutting-edge Evans high-pressure steam engine.

    Evans had to transport the Orukter Amphibolos from his workshop, through the Philadelphia streets, to the Schuylkill River to begin dredging. To do this, he fitted wheels under the vehicle. Rumor has it that the first set of wheels collapsed under the vehicle's weight.

    But ultimately, like a primordial reptile leaving the ocean and wriggling up on dry land, the Orukter Amphibolos exceeded its aquatic design, and took to the streets as America's first automobile, and the world's first amphibious vehicle.



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