I was unable to discover who wrote this, but this article was originally written for the Terre Haute Tribune Star, and archived on the Indiana State University website. Arthur James Paige was my great grandfather.
The first gasoline-powered auto on the streets of Terre Haute was built by Vigo County native Arthur James Paige while he was a student at Rose Polytechnic Institute.
Before entering his junior year at Rose, Paige began working on a motor vehicle in preparation for his senior theses. In the summer of 1900, he contrived a two-cylinder, six-horsepower gasoline engine (two single-cylinder engines coupled together with cranks). That fall he started work on the carriage. As he later explained, “The manufacture of automobiles was in such an experimental stage…that very little literature on the subject could be obtained, while much that was obtained was worthless for practical purposes.” After all, Ford Motor Company did not sell its first auto until July 1904.
Paige’s project was completed in the spring of 1902, consuming nearly two years. All work was accomplished in the Rose Poly Shops at 13th and Locust streets. Paige made patterns for castings but shares credit with Edward T. Wires, instructor at Rose Wood Shop, for the final product. He also received assistance from shop superintendent Alvah W. Clement, shot foreman Garrett W. Logan and several students. One of Paige’s gifted classmates, Claude E. Cox, designed the first Overland automobile for the Standard Wheel Company of Terre Haute in 1903.
When finally assembled, Paige’s vehicle, aptly named “The Rose Technie,” was a four-seat, 850-pound carriage steered by a center lever so it could be operated by either front-seat passenger. An unusual four-note musical horn was added. To enhance engine durability, Paige innovated the use of steel tubing liners for the cylinders. The car appeared much more sophisticated than the steam and naphtha-powered McConnell-Seger Co. auto that first operated on the local city streets in March 1900.
As a result of his theses, “Construction and Test of a Six Horse-Power Gasoline Automobile,” Paige received the coveted Heminway Award from his alma mater in 1903. He later described his work in the March 1903 issue of The Rose Technic, the campus periodical. The precocious son of Terre Haute piano tuner Almer H. Paige earned a mechanical engineering degree in 1902 and remained as an instructor at Rose until 1908, residing with his parents at 420 S. Center St. He was awarded a master’s degree in 1907. Thereafter he worked for several auto manufacturers beginning with the Fort Pitt Motor Manufacturing Co. in New Kensington, PA, where he designed the “Pittsburg Six.” In 1910 he was chief draftsman for National Motor Vehicle Co. of Indianapolis. And in 1911, he was mechanical engineer at the Western Motor Co. in Marion, IN.
After assembling the car that won the 1912 Indianapolis 500, Paige earned national renown for improving the design of rotary gasoline engines and two-stage carburetors. Though he lived in the Detroit metropolitan area for most of his life, the Terre Haute native died in Redondo Beach, CA, on Jan. 10, 1972, at age 89.
When I was growing up, my Dad had his “grandpa’s car” in the back yard. It was not the Rose Technie, it was a later car he had built. it had a single cylinder engine, and was fitted with an unusual looking fuel gage. I am pretty sure that my great grandfather was using this car to experiment with high mileage. My Dad tinkered with the car sometimes, but I don’t remember ever seeing him get it running (although I do remember one exciting day when I was about 9 years old and we pushed it down a hill while I was steering it) The car moved with us 3 times, but then we ended up giving it to a friend of the family who collected old machinery. I’m pretty sure it got destroyed when his garage burned down in the big Julian Pines fire of 2002. I know my Mom still has photographs of that car. if I can find any of them, I will scan and post them here.