Huntington Power Wagon

In the August issue of the Walnut Grove Press, I discussed Alfred Huntington and the gasoline engines he made in Ripley, Sinclairville, and Celoron. This month, I will discuss a photo of a strange vehicle constructed by his brothers. This photo has just turned up in an inventory but was acquired by C. Malcolm Nichols, one of the founders of the Fenton, in 1968 or before.

The driver in the photo is William Huntington who was still living in 1968 and furnished Nichols with information on the identity of the men in the picture and probably furnished the photo, itself. I’ll quote Nichol’s notes.

This spectacular gasoline vehicle was built largely by William and John Huntington and assembled mostly at their home at 94 Lister St., in Jamestown. Many of the parts were made at John Huntington’s small machine shop in Celoron. The wheels were of band iron with spokes made of 5/8” rod and were tuned up [tensioned] by the same principle as bicycle wheel spokes. It was powered by a 2 cylinder, 2 cycle opposed engine that William Huntington built. The gas tank and muffler were made by a local tinsmith. John Huntington was interested in showing early moving pictures and built the auto to take his equipment about for that purpose. Photo taken about 1910.

Eight of the ten men in the photo are identified. They are, left to right: Gust Peterson, unknown, William Huntington [driver], Norman Abramson, W. Ernest Strand, Henry Peterson (brother of Gust), Louis Rhodes (of Lister St.), C. Martin Strand, John Huntington (standing), and unknown.

So here we have Chautauqua County’s first self-propelled motion picture projection stand, and another discovery in the Huntington chapter of our early 20th century technological history. One wonders if the movie projector was used for outdoor showings, precursors to the later drive-in theaters. If so, the projector may have been hand cranked, but was probably electrically driven. This would require a generator somewhere on the apparatus. A generator also could have provided electricity for the projector bulb which would have to be heavy duty for outdoor showings. The projector may be concealed inside the seat and the generator would be mounted beneath the rack where the gasoline engine is located. There doesn’t seem to be anything else mounted on the upper surface.
A two stroke (also called two cycle) engine was typical of early marine engines such as brother Alfred Huntington manufactured. One can see linkage indicating auto steering, i.e. each front wheel pivoted on a king bolt, as opposed to the entire front axle turning as with most horse drawn vehicles and early steam tractors. We can also see that both rear wheels were powered by a chain drive, common for trucks in that era. It must have been a very slow vehicle.

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