|THE RIKER ELECTRIC CAR and THE
RIKER GASOLINE TRUCK
Andrew Lawrence Riker was an early designer of automobiles -- aptly
called "horseless carriages." He was born at New York City on October 22,
1868, the son of William J. and Charlotte L. Riker. He sketched a never-to-be-built electric-powered three wheeler in 1884. In 1887 he added electric
power to an English Coventry Tricycle, and in 1888-89 he founded the Riker
Electric Vehicle Company (located in Elizabethport, NJ), soon to become one
of the country's largest manufacturers of electric cars and (later) trucks. Riker produced
his first electric car in 1894, using a pair of Remington bicycles as a base.
About 54 United States manufacturers turned out almost 35,000
electric automobiles between 1896 and 1915 -- the period of their greatest popularity. The
Columbia, the Baker, and the Riker
were among the more famous makes.
The advertisements shown here appeared in
such prestigious magazines of the day as Harper's Magazine (above) and McClure's
Magazine (below). The publication running the "Ride in a Riker" ad is
unknown. The three vehicles pictured are the Riker Electric Demi-Coach, the Riker
Electric Victoria, and the Riker Electric Phaeton.
Officials of a rival automobile manufacturer, the Locomobile
company, soon decided to explore the use of a gasoline engine
for power, and in January 1902 they turned to the young inventive genius, Andrew Lawrence
Riker, who proceeded to design and build Locomobile's first
gasoline car. In the summer of 1902, under Riker's direction, Locomobile
began building autos powered by two- and four-cylinder internal combustion engines. Of
course, designing motor vehicles was nothing new to Riker who, at the age of 14, had
constructed his first electric motor vehicle in the basement of his family's home in New
By WWI, Riker/Locomobile trucks were
popular with industry and looked like this:
The ads shown above appeared in the Oct. 19, 1918
issue of Scientific American and the Sept. 7, 1918 issue of The Literary
Digest, respectively. The dual-image ad shown below appeared in the Sept. 7,
1918 issue of The Saturday Evening Post.
A few Locomobiles are still owned by
individuals. Illustrator Peter Helck, known particularly for his paintings of car races,
owns "Old 16", whose victory in 1908 is one of the artist's most famous works.
The Riker family has a 1917 two-seat Gunboat Roadster, which Andrew Lawrence Riker, Jr.,
son of the engineer who designed the first gasoline Locomobile
"Old 16," bought in 1966.
[This page was last updated 10/29/03]