Around 1898 Thomas H. White, founder of the White Sewing Machine Company, purchased a Locomobile steam car but found its boiler unreliable. His son, Rollin H. White, improved the design and then patented it before persuading his father to allow him to use a corner in one of his buildings to build the new automobile. This became the White Motor Company of Cleveland, Ohio, which built what were arguably the finest quality and best performing steam automobiles in the early years of the twentieth century.
By 1905 it became necessary to separate the automobile department from its parent company. In July of that year, a White racing steam car named 'Whistling Billy' set a record of 73.75 mph on a local racecourse.
The Cleveland-based White factory developed into a premier manufacturer of luxury steam automobiles. It used an existing network of White Sewing Machine distributors to sell its vehicles both domestically and internationally.
Eventually, White shifted over to gasoline-powered automobiles, as gas won the 'war' of popularity against both steam-powered and electric-powered cars. White then shifted to produce only trucks after World War I. After becoming one of America's biggest truck-makers, White went bankrupt in 1980.
Rated at 10 horsepower, this Model E's two-cylinder engine was very powerful for the two-seat ruanbout body. This particular car is known as 'Black Bess.' Its former owner, F.C. Fenner of Los Angeles drove it in the first Los Angeles to Phoenix road race (also known as the Cactus Derby) in 1908. Black Bess was one of the two Whites in a field of seven cars to undertake the trip.
The current owner purchased the car in 1973. A full restoration was completed in 2014, and it won Best in Class at Pebble Beach. The car is powered by a 15 horsepower, 2-cylinder double acting compound steam engine powered by a steam generator under the seats with a 2-speed rear axle.