Project Description

1909 White Steam Car Model M

In 1909, newly-elected president William Howard Taft turned the White House stables into a garage and purchased four automobiles: two Pierce- Arrows, a Baker electric, and this White Steamer. He was the first president to be officially transported by automobile, rather than by horse and carriage. This car proved to be a favorite. The president would use bursts of steam to ward off pesky press photographers.

Taft firmly believed that the automobile was the future of transportation in America. He embraced this new technology, both in his purchases for the White House and in his promotion and advocacy for the automobile. He encouraged Congress to accept the car in American society and to create car-friendly legislation such as funds appropriations for road systems. These actions helped further the growth of automobile manufacturing.

This car was the ninth to be added to the National Register of Historic Vehicles in 2016.

  • MANUFACTURER: The White Company, Cleveland, Ohio (1906-1918)
  • PRICE NEW: $4,000
  • AVERAGE ANNUAL INCOME 1909: $544
  • PRICE TO BUY 2019: $110,786
  • ENGINE: 2-cylinder double acting, with a steam vapor recovery system, 120 cu.in./2 l.
  • HORSEPOWER: 40

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In our current exhibit, From Carriage to Classic: How Automobiles Transformed America, we present the origin story of the American automobile through 23 cars from Heritage’s permanent collection of antique and classic automobiles. Come along for a ride from the late 1800s to the 1960s and watch the car evolve from a horseless carriage to a streamlined symbol of freedom and independence.

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