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The Baker Motor Vehicle Company was founded in Cleveland, Ohio in 1899 and was introduced at the First National Automobile Show held at Madison Square Garden in New York in 1900. The company's slogan was 'it outsells other electric vehicles because it outclasses them.'
Early electric automobiles found great acceptance, especially in large cities where speed and distance were not an issue. Many early automobile purchasers believed that electrics were more reliable and less troublesome than the early gasoline and steam powered vehicles. By 1910, however, it became clear that the gasoline powered automobile was the most practical choice and electric and steam powered vehicle sales began to decrease.
This 1912 Baker Electric features pneumatic tires, the famous Baker 'bevel gear shaft driven rear end,' and electric powered side lamps, tail light, and a single, front mounted headlamp. The interior is lavishly appointed with a vanity case, flower vases and an electric dome light. It sold new for $2,700 in 1912.
In 1915, the Baker Company merged with Rauch and Lang, another popular builder of electric cars, but in 1916 both companies ended production.
The invention of the electric starter meant that gasoline powered vehicles would ultimately become the fuel type of choice. Before this, the electric vehicles were popular because of their ease of use, lack of fumes, and quiet operation. The Baker automobiles, created by Walter C. Baker, was one of the more popular of the electric vehicles. Walter was a graduate of the Case School of Applied Science, now know as Case Western Reserve University, became owner of his own company in 1898 when he formed the American Ball Bearing Company. With the assistance of Rollin and Fred White, Baker established the Baker Motor Vehicle Company in 1899. His vehicles were revolutionary, introducing many industry 'firsts' such as the first shaft-driven autos, first use of steel ball bearings in his chassis, and the first rear-axle bevel gears.
The Runabout and Stanhope had proven to be popular automobiles so Baker expanded his offerings by introducing the Newport and a Physician's Chapelette. Production of the Newport lasted for two years and hailed by the Company as a 'light carriage which is bound to win great popularity at summer resorts. It is very simple and easy to manipulate. Being absolutely free of lubricants, the finest gowns may be worn by its occupants.' This campaign amplified the companies position as offering vehicles that were suitable for women to operate.
The invention of the electric starter increased the popularity of the gasoline powered vehicles and meant the demise of the electric vehicle. In 1915 Baker merged with Rauch & Lang, another Cleveland based electric auto producer. Together they switched to producing industrial vehicles and trucks. After time the company evolved into the Baker Materials Handling Company. In 1989 the comapny went out of business.
By Daniel Vaughan | Sep 2007