One of the most skillful and insightful automobile pioneers of his time, Alexander Winton was one of the first Americans to build automobiles for regular sale to the public, predating Henry Ford’s car by more than five years.
Born in 1860 in Grangemouth, Scotland, Winton was a Scottish immigrant who came to New York at the age of 19. He worked as an engineer for several years on an ocean steamship and later moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where his sister lived with her husband. He found work as a superintendent at a Cleveland iron factory, but soon began to take note of the tremendous demand for bicycles.
Realizing a business opportunity, Winton founded the Winton Bicycle Company in Cleveland in 1891 with the assistance of his brother-in-law. The business soon became successful, but Winton was growing more interested in self-propelled vehicles.
By 1896, he built his first car, which had a two-cylinder vertical engine with friction clutch, electric ignition, carburetor, regulator to control engine speed, engine starter, and pneumatic tires. Initial success led Winton to establish the Winton Motor Carriage Company to build an improved, dependable model.
In 1898, Winton Motor Carriage Company became arguably the first American company to sell an automobile to the general public with the introduction of the Winton Six. The Six was the most powerful and technologically advanced vehicle of its time, and was the first car to cross America coast to coast. Always the promoter, Alexander Winton entered as many races as he could, winning more often than not, and later recruited Barney Oldfield to pilot his racecars.
He died in 1932.