Last updated: April 10, 2015
"St. Louis" Model Automobile JEFF-8279 One of the most popular artifacts on exhibit at Jefferson National Expansion Memorial is the 1904 "St. Louis" model of the Dorris automobile manufactured by the Saint Louis Motor Carriage Company. The automobile has a wooden body with brass fittings and black leather upholstery and is painted yellow. St. Louis was a center of the early American automobile-making industry between 1900 and 1930. The "St. Louis" model symbolizes the economic changes of this period and dramatizes the little known fact that indeed St. Louis played a major role in car manufacturing in the United States.
The St. Louis Motor Carriage Company manufactured automobiles at 1211-13 North Vandeventer Avenue in St. Louis by George Preston Dorris and John French ,with French as president and in charge of marketing and Dorris as vice-president supervising engineering and production. George Dorris was one of the pioneer American automakers, building a home-made car in Nashville in 1897. Dorris and French,who had been friends since boyhood, realized the broad commercial potential of the automobile and founded the St. Louis Motor Carriage Company, the first car-manufacturing company in St. Louis.
The "St. Louis" model was the first successful single-cylinder car ever made. It had a gasoline engine, clutch and transmission built as a single unit, the first American car to feature this innovation. The "St. Louis" model was sold to the St. Louis Police Department in time for the 1904 World's Fair and was one of the world's first police cars. It became the nucleus of the "Scorching Squad"-St. Louis's first motorized police traffic unit. In 1900, the "St. Louis" was the first automobile driven from St. Louis to Chicago. John French drove the car 450 miles in 36 hours.
The St. Louis Motor Carriage Company moved to Peoria, Illinois in 1905, Dorris stayed in St. Louis to start his own car company, the Dorris Motor Car Company, and moved into the former St. Louis Motor Carriage plant in 1906. The St. Louis Motor Carriage Company went out of business shortly after moving to Peoria. Other car models such as the "Moon", the "Gardner", the" Darby", and the "Clymer" were all manufactured in St. Louis by other companies. Among the most prominent were the "St. Louis" models built by George Dorris, a true pioneer who helped lead the way in making St. Louis an early capital of the American automobile industry.