Henry Seth Taylor Steam Carriage

This article was originally written and submitted as part of a Canada 150 Project, the Innovation Storybook, to crowdsource stories of Canadian innovation with partners across Canada. The content has since been migrated to Ingenium’s Channel, a digital hub featuring curated content related to science, technology and innovation.

Henry Seth Taylor with his steam buggy, ca 1867. Source: Colby-Curtis Museum, Stanstead, Quebec

Henry Seth Taylor beat Henry Ford by about 30 years with a Canadian-made “steam pleasure carriage.”

The first automobile built in Canada was a “steam pleasure carriage” that watchmaker Henry Seth Taylor assembled in Stanstead, Quebec. Taylor was a skilled artisan and loved to build things, and decided to make a steam carriage after seeing an American model in action. Using his metal-working skills, he crafted the carriage’s two-cylinder engine and driving mechanism while a local blacksmith, Joseph Mosher, constructed the carriage frame. Taylor first drove his steam-powered car in 1867 and demonstrated it publicly on September 24, 1868, at the Stanstead agricultural fair. Powered by a rear-mounted coal-fired boiler, the car used a tiller instead of a wheel for steering. Taylor had no plan to produce his invention for sale: he built it to test his mechanical skill and satisfy his own curiosity. Once he’d accomplished these goals, he put the steam buggy aside and moved on to other projects, leaving the buggy stored in a safe place that protected its metal parts from the ravages of time.

American Richard Stewart bought the Taylor steam carriage in 1959 determined to operate it again. He built a new boiler and reconstructed the wooden carriage box and wheels. He cleaned and reassembled the cylinders, driving axle, frame, and steering mechanism — and added brakes.

Did you know that Canada’s first automobile had a horse and buggy design with a boiler and steam engine? On this episode of Science Alive, Dave talks with Curator of Transportation, Sharon Babaian about the steam buggy built by Quebec jeweller and watchmaker Henry Seth Taylor in 1867. Learn about the details of this unique vehicle and how its design was influenced by his skills.

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