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Surrey Vintage Vehicle Society caters for veteran cars, vintage cars & classic cars, as well as commercials and motorcycles.


1900 Cleveland Sperry Stanhope
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1900 Cleveland Sperry in Paris
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 1900 Cleveland Sperry Victoria
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:: [  1900 Cleveland-Sperry Victoria Electric   ] ::

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Interesting enquiry received from William Page (Northern Ireland) saying: Email:1  " I am trying to contact the Author of the book "American Cars in Pre War England" Mr Bryan Goodman who may be a member of your Society. My query is regarding the origin of the photo of the Cleveland Sperry taken outside Stormont Castle in 1900. I suspect this is the only electric car in Ireland at that time, the body type however appears different to the other three surviving Clevelaands;  the " NI3" that runs in the LBVCR on occasions, the car in the Hull Streetlife museum and a third in an Italian museum, -  all of which have a similar body type. I have been unable to ascertain any period photographs of the Cleveland or vehicle catalogue etc. The photo is particularly interesting given the untimely death of the Lady at the Controls, Mrs. Jessie Allan in Boston in 1906 age 44. " 

Email:2 " In MR Goodman's book it is said to be a Cleveland Sperry manufactured in Ohio 1899 -1901. Number were exported to Europe. However the body in the car in the picture is different to the Cleveland Sperry that runs in the LBVCR registration number NI3. Whilst the registration is period correct it was pictured in 1904 on a 10HP Siddeley owned by R.J. Mecredy.  It is possible the Cleveland was made in more than one body style but I can find no period photos or illustrations. The lady in the photograph was Mrs. Jessie E Allan wife of Mr. Charles Edward Allan who was the first Engineering Director of Workman Clarke ship builders in Belfast. The house in the background of the photo is Stormont Sastle, in private ownership at that time & rented by the Allan. It was bought by the government of Northern Ireland in 1921 and became the residence of the first PM of NI."

 Bryan Goodman was a multiple owner, user and a very knowledgeable international authority on Vintage Cars. He had been a member of the Vet
eran Car Club's 'Dating Committee' and had also been a long term member of our Surrey Vintage Vehicle Society. Regretfully he passed away earlier this year (2019) and we are not aware if anybody is going to carry on with his collection or his works. Some of his close collaborators have also passed away recently and we have not been able to obtain any specific information on these particular photographs.

Was it the first electric car in Ireland?  Possibly. Battery powered cars required development of batteries, which largely occurred in France. Britain, France and Germany encouraged development of electric vehicles. Britain had a fleet of battery powered taxis in London in 1897, First practical battery powered production vehicle in US was a tricycle by AL Riker, - by which time Europe had been at it for 15 years. 

What we have
been able to establish about this vehicle is that it actually was not a "1900 Cleveland Electric" because Cleveland Electric Vehicle Co was not formed until 1908. The later Cleveland Electric Vehicle Co, originally Cuyahoga Electric, built a prototype in 1908 and was going to manufacture electric taxis, but went into electric car production as Cleveland Electric Vehicle Co,, 1909-1911. In fact there were eight (8) companies making cars with 'Cleveland' in the name, all bar one were based in Cleveland, Ohio, on Lake Erie. This 'Cleveland' was the first, 1899-1901, was the shortest lasting, probably with the least cars and hence probably least sales literature, and it did not have connection with any of the others. 

Elmer Sperry was of British ancestry and a prolific inventor. His initial works were connected with electricity generators and arc lights. He then had his own company providing street lights to Chicago and other towns. Meantime he developed ultra powerful arc lights for the Navy and later powerful projectors for outdoor movies.  Then moved into electric motors and electric mining equipment such as chain cutters and including railcars for haling coal and electric locomotives. By this time Sperry was owner of a number of companies and Director of many others. Sperry Electric Railway Company was formed in Cleveland and Sperry moved there. Several hundred railcars were made and the newly formed General Electric Company eventually bought the business. A story goes that he had experimented with petrol powered cars but managed to burn down his workshop!  However having experimented and developed hard rubber batteries he also designed a battery powered car to use them in. The car was constructed for him by the Cleveland Machine Screw Company in 1898 . In view of the great sucess during the trials of the car, the French owners of the Cleveland Machine Screw Company persuaded Sperry to exhibit the vehicle in Paris France and show it at the1900 Paris Expo. The exhibition was a roaring success resulting in Sperry getting an order from France for 100 cars to be shipped to France. Manufacture of these was undertaken by Cleveland Machine Screw Company, cars initially being called Cleveland, Sperry System and later just Sperry. Meantime Elmer Sperry had formed the National Battery Co with the boss of American Bicycle Company, later merged into Electric Autolite. American rights to the vehicle were sold to the American Bicycle Company who sold the cars under the name Waverly, which became a part of Pope Waverly in 1903, subsequently in dependant. Elmer Sperry subsequently went on to be responsible for more than 350 patents and to have found eight companies including the famous Sperry Gyroscope..

Ceveland-Sperry System' / 'Sperru' cars were made only in 1900-1901. They were made in three body forms; Stanhope. Victoria and Coupe.  Period drawings of the Stanhope and Victoria are shown top left of this page, including a period French advertisement for the vehicle available from the French arm of the Cleveland Machine Screw Company in Paris. The advertisement refers to the Duc Phaeton (probably the the Victoria model) advising it was 2.5 HP at 80 volts, did 35kph, and a charge would last 300 Km. The British Importer is stated as C Eagle-Bott of The Strand, London, but it is not clear if the Stormont car would have been obtained via them. As to the Cleveland Machine Screw Company after the Sperry, they built a short lived petrol-engined car 1902 to 1904.

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The other model of the Cleveland-Sperry was the 'Stanhope'. Name Stanhope comes from  Earl of Harrington's (William Stanhope) Tilbury carriage of a single central seat with a high front dash (to stop 'dashed-out' debris entering the vehicle from horse's feet).  It seems that while none of the Victoria models have survived, there are at least three of the Stanhope Models in preservation, one frequently seen on the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run. This is a Three-Seat Stanhope with a Dickey Seat mounted high at the rear to clear the folded roof of the vehicle (and probably intended fore the footman.). The vehicle, which is rated at 3.5HP, is reported as purchased by the current owner at Bonhams for 55,000. It carries the Irish Republic registration NI-3. This however is not the original registration as NI-3 was first issued by Wicklow CC to a !904 Siddeley owned by Richard Mecredy, the Hon Sec of the Royal Irish Automobile Club. (Both vehicles are shown in Nicholas Young's excellent publication 'Car Number Classics'). It seems that both UK and Irish authorities allowed at one time the re-use of numberplates for 5 when the original car was destroyed. The current performance of the Stanhope suggests that 15mph uphill was a struggle and that it ran out of power after about 20 miles of modern use. For the LBVCR the bank of four 12V Batteries was simply replaced en-route.

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As to the location of the photo of Mrs. Jessie E Allan in the Cleveland-Sperry, it was at their rented home Stormont Castle. Jessie Allan was the wife of  Charles Edward Allan who was the first Engineering Director of Workman Clarke ship builders in Belfast. They rented the building from the Cleland family who had a farm there in the 1800s of over 200 acres. A bigger house was built later and named 'Storm Mount'. In 1858 the exterior was re-designed in Scottish Baronial style and became known as 'Stormont Castle'. The Cleland family subsequently moved abroad in 1893 and rented the building to a number of successive tenants, the Allans being one of them in c1900. On partition of Ireland in 1921, the building and much of the land was purchased by the government as a site for the government buildings of the new Northern Ireland state. Stormont Castle acted for a short time as headquarters of government while the new Parliament Buildings were being built on the site. Stormont Castle building was due to be demolished but public pressure resulted in it becoming a residence for government officials. The new Stormont Parliament Buildings were opened in 1932.

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