Like many early automobile manufacturers, the makers of the White automobile were successful in manufacturing another product before shifting their interest to the automobile.
In the early days of automobile production, there were three main power sources to drive the vehicle: gasoline, electricity, and steam. All three had 'pros' and 'cons', with gasoline eventually becoming the more popular around 1914. During the late 1890's and early 1900s, it was unclear which would have become the dominate source. Gasoline was smelly, noisy, and was difficult to start, though it was the most powerful. Electricity was the popular choice for city driving, especially with doctors and ladies. It was quiet and clean but it had limited distance that it could travel and replenishing its power took time. Steam was quiet and clean but it had its draw-backs. The vehicles produced a lot of heat, and it took a while to produce the steam. This meant that the driver often had to wait 30 minutes or more for the vehicle to be ready to drive.
Water was inserted into a boiler and then heated from either gasoline or kerosene. The steam was then sent to the cylinders causing pressure which drove the pistons. The steam was condensed, changing the steam back into a liquid form. The water was then reused.
Rollin White of the White Sewing Machine Company in Cleveland was a strong believer in the future of steam powered automobiles. He created an engine that was easy to operate and durable. In 1899 he patented his 'semi-flash boiler' which provided safety features which were revolutionary at the time. Boilers were often prone to explosion, but with Rollin's design, these problems were virtually non-existent. Other steamers heated the water in the upper coils but Rollins allowed the water to be heated in the lower coils. This meant that the generator was able to produce steam quicker and safer.
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.
Stamped with serial number '1 GR,' this car was the first White Model G built and was part of the White Steam Car display at the 1907 New York Auto Show. In 1907 the Model G was the company's largest and most powerful car with a 30 horsepower compound engine powered by superheated steam at 750 degrees Fahrenheit. The Model G chassis was originally designed to provide larger passenger capacity and comfort for the touring and pullman body styles, but with this lighter runabout body it is a very fast performance vehicle. A total of 902 Model Gs were built, but only a few were runabouts. Today only five Model Gs remain, and this is the only known original runabout. A 1907 White steam car became one of the first vehicles in the White House when President Theodore Roosevelt allowed the Secret Service to use the car behind his horse-drawn carriage.