1921 Milburn Opera Coupe

Model 27L Brougham
'The Only Modern, Light, Low-Hung Electric' -- were produced in Toledo from 1915 to 1923, with 1500 vehicles being produced in 1916. The coupe seen here, when new, had a top speed of 15 mph and a range of 60-75 miles per charge.

Because of their ease of operation (no cranking needed to start the engine), electric vehicles were very popular with women drivers. The Milburn has several features designed to appeal to women, including flower vases and the beveled glass mirror. While our eyes might see it as an oversized rear-view mirror, it is actually a fashion accessory.

The two levers in front of the left rear seat are the controls. The long lever is for steering, and the small lever controls the four forward and two reverse speeds. The controls fold up, out of the way, to make room to enter. The strap hanging from the back of the main seat is the 'handle' to lower the range rear window.
The dawn of the automobile era saw many individuals and companies experimenting with a wide variety of fuel sources, such as gasoline, electric, and steam. These three sources were the primary sources with each having benefits and limitations. The electric vehicles were limited on their range but they were clean, quiet and easy to start. Another disadvantage was that households that lacked electricity in their homes were unable to recharge the storage batteries. The steam powered vehicles were also clean and quiet but they required a few minutes before starting to allow steam to form. The gasoline engine was noisy, dirty, and hard to start but showed the most potential. The advent of the electric starter around 1914 meant the demise of the other fuel sources.

By 1910, electric mains had reached a wide portion of the United States population, making electric vehicles more desirable. In 1914, a company was formed in Toledo, Ohio named the Millburn Wagon Company. It was faced with stiff competition from well established electric car makers such as Baker and Detroit, not to mention mounting pressure from many other alternative-fuel sourced vehicles and the low-cost Ford Model T's. What Millburn offered that was unique to the company was a battery pack on rollers, which allowed fresh batteries to be installed quickly. This eliminated the downtime required for re-charging making it much more versatile and useful than the traditional electric cars. Sales reflected, with around 1,000 cars sold in 1915 and increasing to 1500 the following year. Their success was short-lived, and by the early 1920s the era of the electric car was going the way of the dinosaur. Production ceased in 1923 and the factory was sold to General Motors.

Most of the bodystyles produced on the Millburn had the 'phone booth' design. A few roadsters, town cars, and even a delivery van were available.
By Daniel Vaughan | Jun 2008
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