• Nov 21, 2012
President Lincoln's Studebaker on display at the Studeb... President Lincoln's Studebaker on display at the Studebaker National Museum (Credit: Evelyn Kanter).
The much-heralded Steven Spielberg film, "Lincoln", is generating historic ticket sales along with renewed interest in our 16th US President. [Read our AOL review of the film here]

That interest should include the whereabouts of the horse-drawn carriage that transported him to Ford's Theatre that fateful night in 1865, and later rushed him to medical help nearby after being fatally shot by John Wilkes Boothe.

Lincoln's presidential carriage was a Studebaker, and it is on display in the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend, Indiana.

Most of us know Studebaker as the car company that went out of business in the 60s, after producing iconic vehicles including the so-called 'bullet nose' sedans and coupes, and the popular Avanti, Lark, Commander and Gran Turismo. There's at least one of each on display at the museum.

Fewer of us know that the Studebaker brothers were blacksmiths. They made their fortune building horse-drawn wagons, including the famous covered Conestoga wagon that helped open the west, and then wagons that supplied the U. S. Army during the Civil War.

Studebaker also built carriages for presidents. Lincoln's elegant Barouche, with his "AL" monogram on the doors, is displayed alongside the carriage Ulysees S. Grant used before and after he became President, and one used by President William McKinley, who was assassinated in 1901. There's also the 1824 carriage Studebaker built for the Marquis de Lafayette's tour of America. Now, that's history.

Like so many family-owned businesses, the sons of the wagon-makers pressured their fathers and uncles in the early 1900s to change with the times, and replace horses with a motor.

In 1902, Studebaker produced its first motorized vehicle, powered by an electric motor. The first Studebaker automobile was an EV. How's that for being ahead of its time?

Between 1902 and 1914, Studebaker produced and sold nearly 2,000 electric vehicles. They had a range of 70 miles and could reach a top speed of 21 mph. That range is only slightly below the range of today's Nissan Leaf, though the Leaf does go faster. Several of the Studebaker EVs are on display.

Long before Detroit became the center of the American auto industry, it was headquartered in Indiana, with a dozen car and tire manufacturers, including Studebaker, Auburn, Cord and Duesenberg. The world-famous Indianapolis Speedway – home of the equally world-famous Indianapolis 500 race on Memorial Day – was built in 1909 as a test track for Indiana's auto industry.

The Studebaker National Museum in South Bend was in a building that once housed the brand's largest dealership. It now shares the building with the Center for History, which houses a medical museum. Another Indiana company you may have heard of is the Eli Lily Corporation. The Indianapolis Art Museum is housed on the grounds of the former Lily family mansion.

Among the vehicles on display in the Studebaker museum is a 1933 Studebaker coupe owned by Knute Rockne, legendary football coach at Notre Dame, also located in South Bend. That was when you could buy a car for under $2,000--or roughly the amount today's automaker's knock off the price of a new car in the form of a rebate.

Studebaker continued to build vehicles and parts for the military long after the Civil War. In WWII, Studebaker built engines for the B-17 Flying Fortress, and the US6 6x6 military trucks. Many military vehicles and artifacts are on display here, too, but not the M29 and M29C amphibious "Weasel" trucks similar to those seen in another Steven Spielberg war film, "Saving Private Ryan".

If you go – Studebaker National Museum, South Bend (http://www.studebakermuseum.org) is open daily, year-round except holidays. 150 miles from Indianapolis.

Evelyn Kanter is a New York City-based free-lance writer and contributor to AOL Autos


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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 2 Years Ago
      An uncle of mine use to drive my aunt to visit us in his 2 seat Studebaker sport's car back in the 1960's.
      • 2 Years Ago
      When I was a child in the 50's and early 60's a few of the rare cars were still on the road in my area like the Hudson, La Salle, Tucker Torpedo, Duensberg, Auburn and others besides the Studebakers. I was amazed at many of the styles with their rounded bodies. Packards were interesting with their many extra gages and two tone paint jobs. I was hoping to get vone of those old cars for a first car when In was younger but missed out. I almost had a 1927 Pontiac touring Sedan which was sold while we ate dinner. The Pontiac was restored and offered for $750.00 but at age 15 my family wasn't rushing for a third car to be in the driveway.
        • 2 Years Ago
        so youre saying that in the 1950's you saw a tucker torpedo still driuving on the road? even though less than 50 were ever produced .
      • 2 Years Ago
      The article has several errors - the Studebaker National Museum's Lincoln carriage was not made by Studebaker, but by the Wood Brothers of New York. Nor did Studebaker build the Museum's Lafayette (built by John Curlet of Baltimore, MD) or the Grant (Brewster & Co. of New York). Studebaker discontinued electric automobile production in 1911, not 1914. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway opened in 1909, not the 1920s. The Studebaker National Museum used to be housed in a Studebaker dealership building but is no longer - it opened a brand new facility in 2005. The Museum is part of a campus that includes the Center for History, home to the Northern Indiana Historical Society's museum and Copshaholm, the Oliver (of Oliver Chilled Plow) family's mansion. The Studebaker National Museum's collection includes a 1933 Rockne automobile - not Rockne's personal car. The brand was built by Studebaker in 1932 and 1933 and named for the Notre Dame coach who also served as Studebaker's Assistant Sales Manager. Rockne died in a plane crash in March of 1931.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Funny but my uncle who drove the Studebaker sports car was my uncle Abe! Abe was married to my Aunt Ruth. Uncle Abe's Grandfather spoke with a Heavy Scott's Brog so I could not understand a word he said.
      • 2 Years Ago
      $2,000.00 in 1933 has the buying power of $35,587.23 in 2012. source: CPI Inflation Calculator. http://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm
      • 2 Years Ago
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      • 2 Years Ago
      Hmmm, could this have been the first presidential limousine?………..
      • 2 Years Ago
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      • 2 Years Ago
      Studebaker vehicles are prized and used by many in horse shows. I searched and searched for one to restore when we were showing in harness, and everyone we met who had one felt it was a real treasure.
      • 2 Years Ago
      I'll bet Lincoln would have enjoyed a supercharged Avanti.
      • 2 Years Ago
      My grandfather was born in 1877 and remarked that, "Studebaker has not been worth a darn since they took the tongue out from under it". Which was an obvious reference to the wagon-era, which they enjoyed a premier position in that market. Their designs looked good, but suffered from detail flaws.
        • 2 Years Ago
        My family came over in the early 1600's settling in Mass and CT in 1634. They managed not to be eaten by the Mohawks. Many indians feared the Pequots who almost wiped the setters out in CT. The settlers caught the Pequot celebrating the slaughter of many of the settlers. The settlers this time were able to sneak up on the Pequots which caused the tribe to run to the Mohawks. The Mohawks did not like the Pequots so they scalped them and gave the scalps to the settlers!
      • 2 Years Ago
      Having grown up in the 1940s a short distance from South Bend, I remember elderly Julia Studebaker, a friend of my grandmother, driving her 1910 Studebaker Electric into downtown South Bend, parking it squarely in the middle of traffic on the main thoroughfare and leaving it to do her errands. A kindly police officer would calmly move it to the curb. However, while Northern Indiana was indeed an early center of the automobile industry, it hardly pre-dated Detroit, which was an automobile center from the very beginning, along with other Michigan cities, including Lansing and Flint. Ford of course was located in the Detroit area from day one, and many of its smaller competitors which were later folded into General Motors were also in Detroit.
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