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Baker Motor Vehicle Company
GenreElectric automobiles
FateMerged with Cleveland, Ohio automaker Rauch and Lang
SuccessorBaker, Rauch & Lang
Headquarters1250 West 80th St.[1],
Cleveland, OH
Automotive parts
1913 Baker Electric

Baker Motor Vehicle Company was an American manufacturer of Brass Era electric automobiles in Cleveland, Ohio, from 1899 to 1914. It was founded by Walter C. Baker.


Baker Electrics logo, 1912

The first Baker vehicle was a two seater with a selling price of US$850. One was sold to Thomas Edison as his first car.[2] Edison also designed the nickel-iron batteries used in some Baker electrics. These batteries have extremely long lives[citation needed].

1902 accident

In May 1902, Baker took part in a speed trial on a public road on Staten Island, New York.[3] The vehicle was built specially for racing, having previously raced in Cleveland, and was a streamlined and enclosed 'torpedo' body with a small conning tower and even smaller mica window for the driver. A crew of two were carried, one acting as brakesman whilst W C Baker, the driver, steered. Although carrying two people increased the weight, this was a small matter when the car already weighed 3,000 lb (1,400 kg), mostly of lead-zinc batteries. The intention was to exceed 60 mph and to cover 'a mile a minute' from a standing start, beating the performance of the more powerful gasoline cars and the 1901 electric record by a Riker of 1:08.

The Baker was car 39 from the start and set a good time for the first part of the course, but then lost control and slid sideways into the crowd. A number of spectators were injured and two killed. In the aftermath, the Automobile Club of America resolved to stop races on public roads and there was a general loss of confidence in the safety of electric cars.[4][5][6]

Early production

The model range was expanded in 1904 to two vehicles, both two-seaters with armored wood-frames, centrally-located electric motors, and 12-cell batteries.[7]

The Runabout had 0.75 horsepower (0.56 kW), weighed 650 pounds (290 kg), and had a wheelbase of 58-in.[7] The Stanhope cost US$1,600, weighed 950 pounds (430 kg), had 1.75 horsepower (1.30 kW) and three-speed transmission. It was capable of 14 miles per hour (23 km/h).

In 1906, Baker made 800 cars, making them the largest electric vehicle maker in the world at the time.[2] They bragged that their new factory was "the largest in the world" in advertisements. The company also made a switch from producing Baker Electric Carriages to automobiles. According to the company promotionals; "We employ the choicest materials in every detail of their construction and finish, producing vehicles which in every minute particular, cannot be equaled for thorough excellence."[8]

1909 Baker Suburban Runabout

The 1906 Baker Landolet was priced at $4,000. The company also manufactured the Imperial, Suburban, Victoria, Surrey, Depot Carriages, and other new models "to be announced later."[8] One of the most unusual 1906 Bakers was the Brougham with the driver on the outside, in the back.[9]

Baker Electrics advertisement, The Washington Post, 19 October 1913

By 1907, Baker had seventeen models, the smallest being the Stanhope and the largest the Inside Drive Coupe. There was also the US$4,000 Extension Front Brougham with the driving seat high up behind the passengers mimicking a hansom cab. Baker also introduced a range of trucks with capacity of up to five tons in 1907.

In late 1910, the Baker Electric was quite luxurious and priced at $2,800. It had a seating capacity of four passengers and was painted black with choice of blue, green or maroon panels. The latest model also offered a Queen Victoria body as "interchangeable on chassis" priced at an additional $300.[10]

The Baker of 1910 was the only electric that had a heavy series-wound motor of 300 percent overload capacity, with a commutator "absolutely proof against sparking and burning under all conditions."[10]

Special Baker Electrics

Commercial vehicles

Baker Motor-Vehicle Co. Commercial Car Department, 1912

The Baker Motor-Vehicle Company, located at 63 West 80th Street in Cleveland, Ohio, specialized in vehicles for the commercial market. By October 1912, the company had a Commercial Car Department and had dealers situated in several leading cities around the United States.[13]

During late 1912, Baker advertised that the average cost for deliveries over the "steep hills" of Spokane, Washington, by Crescent Department Store were four cents a piece, including all operating charges, maintenance, interest and depreciation.[13]

By late 1913, the company advertised their new model as "The magnificent new Baker Coupe" and that the car was "just what the public demanded, a genuine automobile, not an electrically driven coach". That year, the car had "increased roominess, full limousine back, longer wheelbase, graceful, low-hung body lines, with both interior and exterior conveniences and appointments which have set a new mark in motor car refinement". Another new feature were revolving front seats which faced forward or "turn about".[14]

Baker's former showroom and service facility on Euclid Avenue


Baker Electric - Quality Service in 1913

In 1913, Baker was overtaken in sales by Detroit Electric and, in 1914, merged with fellow Cleveland automaker Rauch and Lang to become Baker, Rauch & Lang.[2] The last Baker cars were made in 1916, but electric industrial trucks continued for a few more years. Baker, Rauch & Lang produced the Owen Magnetic under contract.

Founder Walter C. Baker's Torpedo land speed record racer was the first car to have seat belts. The car was capable of over 75 miles per hour (120 km/h).[citation needed]

Walter Baker joined the board of Peerless Motor Company in 1919.[2]


A 1906 Baker Electrics Advertisement - The Draw-Bar Pull of Baker Electrics - The Washington Post, June 17, 1906
Baker Motor Vehicle Company advertisement - Automotive Industries, 1906
Baker Electrics - 1910 Advertisement - Syracuse Journal, December 3, 1910
Baker Electric - 1911 Advertisement - Country Life in America, May 15, 1911
Advertisement 1912 - Baker Motor-Vehicles Co. of Cleveland, Ohio - Commercial Car Department - Power Trucks, 1912

In popular culture

A 1916 Baker Electric featured in a 1959 episode of Peter Gunn entitled "Love Me to Death".[15] A 1916 Baker Electric was also featured in a 1960 episode of Dennis the Menace.[16]

See also


  1. ^ a b "1902 Baker electric automobile, owned by the King of Siam". Detroit Public Library. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d Georgano, N. (2000). Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile. London: HMSO. ISBN 1-57958-293-1.
  3. ^ "Auto speed trial accident, Staten Island, May 31, 1902". Historic Richmond Town Online Collections Database. Staten Island Historical Society. Retrieved 14 November 2019.
  4. ^ "The infernal machine which ran amuck at speed trials yesterday". New York Tribune. 1 June 1902.
  5. ^ Anderson, Curtis Darrel; Anderson, Judy (2005). Electric and Hybrid Cars: A History. McFarland. pp. 148–149. ISBN 9780786418725.
  6. ^ Abhilash Gaur (9 April 2017). "This electric car shocked the motoring world in 1902".
  7. ^ a b Dusan Ristic-Petrovic. "Image: Miscellaneous Brochures and Data/Autos of 1904 Booklet/Autos of 1904-22". Retrieved 2022-08-18.
  8. ^ a b Automotive Industries, Volume 15. The Class Journal Company, New York, New York, 5 July 1906. 1906. Retrieved 2010-07-23. ((cite book)): |work= ignored (help)
  9. ^ Kimes, Beverly (1996). standard catalog of American Cars 1805-1942. Krause publications. ISBN 0-87341-428-4.
  10. ^ a b "Baker Motor-Vehicle Co". Syracuse Journal. Syracuse, New York. December 3, 1910.
  11. ^ a b Karolevitz, Robert F. (1968). This Was Pioneer Motoring. Superior Publishing Company.
  12. ^ Shafer, Ronald G. (2019-02-24). "A century before Elon Musk's Tesla, electric cars were popular in many cities". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2019-07-07.
  13. ^ a b Power Wagon, Issues 92-97. The Power Wagon, Chicago, Illinois. June 1912. Retrieved February 6, 2018.
  14. ^ "Baker Motor-Vehicle Co". The Washington Post. Washington, D.C. October 19, 1913.
  15. ^ "Baker Electric 1916".
  16. ^

Further reading