The Automobile

Fact Paper 1

© Samuel Kurinsky, all rights reserved

image of an early automobile
A benzine-powered automobile, invented by Siegfried Marcus. Marcus, a Viennese Jew, constructed the first combustion-engined vehicle in 1864. Marcus was an inventive genius, patenting 38 major inventions.

NOTE: This subject is more fully covered in: Fact Papers 32-I and 32-II

We need only go back a century to be struck by the dismal ignorance regarding Jewish creativity. The invention of the automobile provides a glaring example of the significant gaps in our knowledge. It would seem that the automobile is so central to our civilization that the name of its inventor would roll off the tongue of every eighth grader as easily as that of Edison or Watt or Eli Whitney. Yet, how many know who invented the automobile?

The honor for the invention of practical, self-propelled family vehicles goes mainly to two men: M. Davidson of Darmstadt Germany, who invented the electric automobile, and Siegfried Marcus a Viennese Jew, who invented the combustion-engined automobile.

Steam power was first used for propelling vehicles. The origin of the steam engine does not lie in Britain, as our western-oriented histories would have us believe. "As early as 800 B. C., the Chinese recognized the power of steam, and a description of a steam-powered cart appeared in the writings of the Chou Dynasty (about 1027-256 B.C.)." One of the first modern descriptions of such a self-propelled vehicle comes from Ferdinand Verbiest, a Jesuit stationed in China, who then had a car driven by a steam turbine built about 1670.1

A Jewish inventor was among many who played a pioneering role in the American development of the steam engine. Joseph Simon, of Lancaster Pennsylvania, in partnership in a joint workshop with William Henry, experimented with that form of mechanism in 1763. A bright young apprentice, Robert Fulton, was then under their tutelage. Fulton went on to construct the first steamboat in 1807.2

In the mid-nineteenth century, some audacious inventors experimented with steam-power for family transportation. The necessity for maintaining a firebox and other considerations made that type of mechanism too unwieldy, troublesome and impractical.

In 1854, the German/Jew, M. Davidson of Darmstadt replaced the horse with an electric motor and the harness with a transmission and thus produced the first practical auto-mobile.3 Davidson was far ahead of his time, for while the state of the art at that time left the electric battery inadequate for sustained travel, it does appear that relatively pollution-free electricity may eventually become an energy of choice for family vehicles.

Shortly after Davidson drove his horseless carriage around Darmstadt, Siegfried Marcus, of Vienna, was experimenting with the production of illumination by igniting a mixture of gasoline and air with a stream of sparks. Marcus recognized from the violent reaction that ensued, that, if controlled, it could become a valuable power source for a more effective, efficient, practical engine than one powered by steam. He constructed a two-cycle motor in which such a mixture was introduced into the cylinder and fired with a spark. Marcus then geared it to the rear wheels of a cart. The engine was started by having a strong man lift the back of the cart and spin a rear wheel!

In 1864, the first combustion-engined vehicle made a successful run of over two hundred yards.

During the next ten years Marcus worked on and off on his engine, pioneering and patenting many fundamental innovations, such as magneto ignition, the rheostat, the telegraph relay. In 1870, and again in 1874-5, Marcus built improved models of combustion-engined automobiles, and drove them through the streets of Vienna.

Marcus registered patents for the noisy putt-putting machine in 1882.

image of an early automobile
A combustion-engined automobile built in 1874 by Siegfried Marcus and patented in 1882. The first model of a self-propelled, benzine-fueled vehicle had been invented by Marcus ten years earlier.

Its attributes were remarkable for its time. Siegfried Marcus introduced a number of ground-breaking innovations that made his combustion motor a standard for all that followed. Some of these inventions have endured into modern cars.

The vehicle Marcus patented was driven by a single cylinder, four-stroke, water-cooled engine. The cylinder measured 100 by 200 mmm., and had a volume of 1570 cc. It had a mechanically-operated slide inlet valve and a poppet exhaust valve. It had a low-tension magneto ignition and a surface carburetor. It was geared with a single forward speed. The power was transmitted by a metal-to-metal cone clutch, and was belted to a sold rear axle. In engaged the wheel with a slipping clutch differential to the nearside rear hub. It had center-pivot steering and shoe brakes.

At the time, vehicles were pulled by animals from the front. Marcus determined that to reduce the transmission length and facilitate steering, mounting the motor in the rear was more practical and economical.

21 years after Marcus produced the first automobile, 15 years after he drove his first sophisticated model through the Viennese streets, and over 2 years after he patented his invention, another combustion-engined vehicle appeared. It was produced by Carl Benz and his Jewish partner, Max Rose. "(It was) a three-wheeler powered by a two-cycle, one-cylinder engine."4

image of an early automobile
The first combustion-engined vehicle produced by Carl Benz and Max Rose in early 1885

At about the same time, the partners Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach were working on a one-cylinder air-cooled engine. It was put into a wooden bicycle that first ran on November 10, 1885. "The next year the first Daimler four-wheeled rod vehicle was made: a carriage modified to be driven by a one-cylinder engine."5 Both German machines incorporated Marcusí innovations.

image of an early automobile
The first combustion-engined vehicle produced by Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach, November, 1885.

In 1898 the Austrian Automobile Club arranged an exhibition of motor cars. Siegfried Marcus was officially appointed the guest of honor of the exhibition as the inventor of motorized vehicles. The original car was featured, and it remained on permanent exhibit at the Automobile Club.

Until, that is, the Nazi Anschluss took place. The Nazis launched a campaign to destroy all evidences of Jewish creativity. They were not satisfied with burning all books by Jews and destroying literature documenting Judaic works, but went on to destroy archival material, and to destroy the physical evidence of the Judaic contribution to Germany and to civilization. The Nazi forces in Austria had specific instructions to destroy the Marcus machine and all photographs, patent papers and all other evidence of its creation and existence, specifically including the destruction of all copies of a brochure containing original photographs of the 1864 and 1874-5 models!6

Fortunately, some alert and sensitive members of the Museum for Trade and Industry had the machine bricked up behind a cellar wall of the museum. It survived, as did the record of its invention. A mass of documentation, including photographs of the original motor car, have disappeared.

On April 16,1950, the Marcus automobile proved sturdy and well-preserved enough to make a demonstration run on the streets of Vienna at a speed of three miles an hour.

That is still not the whole story, for Marcusí automobile would not have been possible without the pioneering work of another Jewish genius, Abraham Shreiner, a Galizianer. In 1854, the very year that Davidson of Darmstadt put the first horseless carriage on the road, Abraham cracked petroleum,7 that is, he broke the black liquid mineral onto a variety of products, some of which were volatile and explosive; these were the products that made the combustion engine possible. Other chemical products that Abraham Shreiner produced and identified laid the foundation for the entire petroleum and plastics revolution.

Abraham Shreiner died in penury. A major portion of the present chemical and plastics industries are based upon the foundations he laid for their development.

The Arabs, ironically, owe their largesse to a Jew!


  1. Encyclopedia Americana, 1995, "Automobile."
  2. Cecil Roth, The Jewish Contribution to Civilization, University Press, Aberdeen, London,1956,157
  3. Roth, Ibid., 156
  4. Encyclopedia Britannica, 1973, "Automobile."
  5. Enc. Brit. Idem.
  6. Enc. Brit., Idem.
  7. Roth, Idem.