Were Cars Made In Owatonna Before 1900?
I stumbled upon an article written in 1972 by Alan Ominsky. He put a lot of effort in tracking down automobiles that were made in Minnesota in the real early days. Here's the link to Minnesota-Made Cars and Trucks. It's got a lot of information and even pictures of these autos.
I noticed he made reference to possibly 3 cars being made in Owatonna in around 1895. This would be a year before Henry Ford's heralded auto. Of course the debate on who was really first will continue for eternity. Olminsky mentions a Frank Labare and D. J. Ames making a car in 1895 at the Owatonna Manufacturing Company shops. They supposedly drove it around town before selling it to a party in Chicago. This car was gas powered.
There is also reference to a man named Nichols of Owatonna building a steam car and selling it to someone in Chicago in 1895. There is also reference to another car being built at the Owatonna Manufacturing Company in 1896.
The article also includes an interesting story about a Lincoln Fey of Northfield who was apparently allergic to horses and as a result he constructed several cars. You'll see pictures of these autos in the above link.
There are also references to several early automobiles being made in Mankato as well. If you're a car buff, give it a read. The car in this post's photo is not one of the cars made in Owatonna. You'll have to click the link to see the real deal. Most folks who have lived in Owatonna for a time have heard the numerous stories of businesses being created by someone tinkering in their garage or shed, so building a car shouldn't be that big of a surprise.
By the way, do you know what Minnesota's biggest export is? Find out here.