American Motor League

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American Motor League membership
card issued to Charles B. King in 1904

The American Motor League ("AML") was the first automobile organization in the United States, formed 1895.[1][2] The AML started in Chicago from ideas of Charles Brady King.[3] He wished to form an organization that governed the movement of the fast development of the manufacture of "horseless carriages" that seemed to be going in various haphazard directions in the United States.[4] The AML was organized by King[5] and he was given the first membership each year, No. 100.[6]


The main goal of the new AML was to encourage experimenters and inventors to manufacture horseless carriages. They had two obstacles to overcome to accomplish this.

  1. The mechanical problems involved.
  2. The news media. The press ran journals that gave false misleading technical information that were serious obstacles to developers and inventors. The public had a tendency to believe what was printed, even though many times were wrong, and this made the developers and inventors look bad in the public's eye. This then discouraged further development that was necessary in the introduction of new ideas and techniques to advance the technology of the automobile. This also created worthless drawings for the Patent Office which then had difficulty in determining which was a workable patentable invention.[4]

King wanted to hold national meetings where technical papers could be submitted. He wanted discussions and exchange of ideas to help develop the technology of the automobile.[3]


A meeting was held at the Chicago School of Electricity on Dearborn Street on Friday evening of November 1, 1895. The purpose of the meeting was to form a framework in the advancement of the new "horseless carriage" for the designers and experimenters. King suggested this meeting in a letter to the editor of The Horseless Age magazine that was published on October 8, 1895.[3][7][8]

Dr. J. Allen Hornsby was elected temporary president and F. U. Adams of the Times-Herald was the temporary secretary of the new American Motor League. Hornsby called the meeting to order at the assigned time. He made an introductory speech outlining the goals and reasons for the new organization. He invited those present to state their views in regard to the general policies they should have for the new organization. Some liked the idea of a broad and liberal platform where all concerned with the new "horseless carriages", soon to be called motocycles, could be heard on their views. This included designers, manufacturers, and users alike. However others thought the membership of the new organization should be limited only to manufacturers and designers of the motorized vehicle.[7]

Those present consisted of the Duryea brothers, Elwood Haynes, Henry G. Morris, Pedro G. Salom, Sterling Elliott, Charles Brady King, H. D. Emerson, C. A. Clarke, George Henry Hewitt, Edward E. Goff, W. G. Walton, H. W. Leete, C. F. Karns, J. A. Chase, W. F. Barnes, A. Taylor, C. M. Giddings, Elwood Haynes, George N. Richmond, J. Wallace Grant, and E. P. Ingersoll. There was a wide range of views as to what direction the new organization should go. It was deemed best to appoint a committee on the outline the new AML should take. The special committee was to report at the next meeting, which was to be held in Chicago about three or four weeks later. Hornsby was to work with Emerson and Charles E. Duryea on this matter.[7]


The members of the AML met for the second time on November 29 and approved a far reaching constitution. It involved the advancement of the public interest of the use of the automobile by reports of mechanical features and legislation defending the rights of usage of the automobile. The Constitution was also to stimulate the promotion of better roads throughout the United States.[3]

The new members elected Charles Duryea as the President and King as the treasurer. The vice-presidents were H.D. Emerson, Henry Morris, and Hiram Maxim.[9]

One of the first actions taken by the AML was to have removed the restriction of "horseless carriages" on the city streets of Chicago. The AML was not very successful in this action and it was later taken over by other organizations that had the motorist interests in mind and were more effective in their actions.[9]


The AML had members in over 600 towns, however only existed for a few years.[9] One of the reasons was the diversity of interests of the members. The AML could not cater to all these interests.[2] Those that wanted an association that represented just automobile manufacturers associated themselves with trade associations. Those that wanted representation for just the engineers of the mechanical aspects associated themselves with the Society of Automotive Engineers. Motorists were represented by the American Automobile Association ("AAA"), newly formed in 1902.[3] In 1904 the AML merged with the AAA to become the American Motor Association.[10]


  1. ^ May, p. 7 The American Motor League had the distinction of being the first automobile organization in American history.
  2. ^ a b May, p. 289 ...but as the first such group in the country the league signaled the emergence of a new era.
  3. ^ a b c d e May, p. 7 author of article of "American Motor League" within the enclopedia is James Wren of the Motor Manufacturers Association
  4. ^ a b King, p. 46
  5. ^ "King Motor Car Club of America". Archived from the original on 2011-09-27. Retrieved 2011-05-19. 
  6. ^ King, pp. 41-43
  7. ^ a b c Horseless Age, p. 27
  8. ^ May, p. 289
  9. ^ a b c May A most unique machine..., p. 32
  10. ^ Motor age (magazine), Volume 5, 1904, page 109


  • Horseless Age: the automobile trade magazine, Volume 1, The Horseless age company, December 1895
  • King, Charles B., A Golden Anniversary 1895-1945 / Personal Side Lights of America's First Automobile Race, Privately Printed, 1945
  • May, George S., Encyclopedia of American Business History and Biography, Bruccoli Clark Layman, 1990, ISBN 0-8160-2084-1
  • May, George S., A most unique machine: the Michigan origins of the American automobile industry, Eerdmans, 1975