Today, much emphasis and hope is being placed in electric cars forging the path into the future. Nearly 100 years earlier electric cars were seen as the hope and the means for the future as well. And one of those believed to be pointing the way forward was the Waverley Electric automobile company.
Considered 'by far the best Electric on the Markey', Waverley Electric would be born from the Indiana Bicycle Company. The Indiana Bicycle Company first started around 1893 and would continue under that name until the turn of the 20th century when it then changed its name to American Bicycle Company. Albert Augustus Pope had established the company in Indianapolis. However, in 1898, Pope would merge what was the Indiana Bicycle Company with his American Electric Vehicle Company of Chicago. This is what led to the name change in 1900.
Prior to merging the two companies together into one large empire, the Indiana Bicycle Company began to start building electric buggies. The first of these would be a two-person Stanhope design this would be called a 'Waverley', which would come from the Waverley bicycle the company produced.
Utilizing Elmer Sperry's patented battery, the Waverley Stanhope was able to travel 40 miles and could achieve a top speed of 14 mph. It had a tiller for steering, upholstered leather seat and could even be ordered with side curtains, which would make it a favorite with physicians.
While the merger that would take place toward the end of the century would come to be known as American Bicycle Company the electric cars themselves would be called Waverley Electrics. Even then, the cars would be produced under another auspice of International Motor Car Company.
Almost immediately, the Waverley Electrics would come to be popular, especially with the mainstream culture of the day. Such people as Diamond Jim Brady, Madam C.J. Walker, General Lew Wallace, and even Thomas Edison would come to own Waverley Electric automobiles.
Evolving and improving from basic two-seater Runabouts and Surreys, Waverley Electrics would go on to offer a number of different models to suit many different needs and driver types. There would even be a 3.5hp Brougham offered that came with an electric heater. Using simplicity and its quiet ride, Waverley would use such slogans as 'No complications. Turn on power and steer' to advertise its electric cars. Waverley Electrics would even offer rather unusual models that reflected the adventure, freedom and culture of that time when it offered a model that placed the driver in the rear seat with the front seats turned backward so that a conversation could be carried on while the driver drove the car.
At the time, Waverley would make owning one of its cars about as carefree as possible by offering its cars with Sperry's battery that was guaranteed for two years, as well as, a contract for battery maintenance lasting five years.
Of course, Edison's work with electricity would cause him to come into the picture around 1901. He had been hard at work developing a battery using cadmium and copper instead of the more common lead. He, therefore, would go to Waverley to use one of their cars to try and apply his new battery. The battery would end up cutting weight down by over thirty percent and it would enable the vehicle to travel over 90 miles.
Armed with this evolution in battery technology, the now called International Motor Car Co. would advertise their 1901 Waverley models, especially the Model 21, as offering more than 60 miles on a charge.
Though already part of his empire, which included the Columbia electric car, Albert Augustus Pope would buy out the International Motor Car Company in 1903 and would change the name to Pope-Waverley. Pope-Waverley then would be just one of the brands of the Pope Motor Car Company.
Under Pope's ownership, the company would come to offer even more models of electric cars that would include the Pope-Waverley Chelsea, which was a 2 seat passenger car; the Pope-Waverley Road Wagon, which included an empty box container on the back for cargo hauling; the Pope-Waverley Edison Battery Wagon; and the Pope-Waverley Tonneau, which could seat 5 passengers.
In spite of the many models offered by the company, developments and the abilities of the internal-combustion engine would put a severe clamp on the electric car industry. Waverley Electric would remain part of Pope's empire until 1908 when production ceased. Nothing would be heard of the company until 1914 when it would become its own company again. However, by that time, the Waverley name had lost its way and could no longer see its way forward.
One of those forward-thinking, future-forging Waverley Electric cars would come up for auction in 2012. At the RM Auction in Arizona, an early 1903 Waverley Electric Surrey, chassis 3774, would be offered.
A Model 20a, this particular chassis comes with twin 3 hp DC motors and comes with an additional overload capacity of 3 hp each. Sporting a solid front and live rear axle on semi-elliptic leaf springs, its driver and occupants would most definitely get to experience what was called at the time, 'safe, speedy, noiseless, odorless and economical'.
While this electric Surrey's early history is rather unknown, it is known that it once was a part of the Cedar Crossing electric vehicle collection of Mr. James Cousens, as well as, the property of Mr. John McMullen.
In 2008, the Waverley would come to be part of John O'Quinn's extensive collection. After O'Quinn's unfortunate death in 2009, RM has had the responsibility of parting up his vast collection. And this car comes correct with the exception of missing 40-cell battery arrangement. Even still, the car was expected to bring $50,000 to $80,000 at the auction. And this is certainly understandable given the car's important place in electric car history.
Sources: 'Feature Lots: Lot No. 234: 1903 Waverley Electric Surrey', (http://www.rmauctions.com/FeatureCars.cfm?SaleCode=AZ12&CarID=r164&fc=0). RM Auction. http://www.rmauctions.com/FeatureCars.cfm?SaleCode=AZ12&CarID=r164&fc=0. Retrieved 10 January 2012.
'Waverley Electric', (http://www.secondchancegarage.com/public/waverley-electric-car.cfm). SecondChanceGarage: An Easy Way to Learn About Restoring Cars. http://www.secondchancegarage.com/public/waverley-electric-car.cfm. Retrieved 10 January 2012.
Wikipedia contributors, 'Pope-Waverley', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 25 November 2009, 16:23 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Pope-Waverley&oldid=327881886 accessed 10 January 2012