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The Revival

Tom in possibly first steam car he ever saw. 1904/1905 Model C, June 27, 1936 in Farmington, Maine

Tom Marshall in possibly first steam car he ever saw. 1904/1905 Model C, June 27, 1936 in Farmington, Maine. (Marshall Steam Museum Archives)

Birth of a Collecting Hobby

Early auto collectors began seeking out cars of their youth starting in the 1930s. With no established collecting hobby and little demand for old automobiles, many early cars were considered junk and languished in sheds, barns, and even open fields. The formation of national clubs, such as the Antique Automobile Club of America, allowed early collectors to communicate, organize and even participate in tours together. 

In 1940, years after his career as a Stanley agent, Clarence Marshall bought back the 1913 Stanley Touring Model 76 that he had sold new to a local farmer so many years earlier. He wanted the old Stanley “to play with.”

 

Early automobile found outside, ca. 1940s

Early automobiles could be found deteriorating in locations such as barns, fields and junk heaps, ca. 1940s. (Marshall Steam Museum Archives)

Local historian C.A. Weslager looks over the Marshall museum, ca. 1964.

Local historian C.A. Weslager looks over the Marshall museum, ca. 1964. (Marshall Steam Museum Archives)

Nostalgia for Steam

During World War II and immediately after, Clarence Marshall dove headfirst into the automobile collecting hobby, purchasing almost any Stanley that became available, along with useful parts. His collection grew so large that in 1947 he built the present museum building to house it. At its height, the collection consisted of more than 40 vehicles.  

The Marshalls (father and son) entered the touring hobby in the late 1940s and drove their steam cars, many of which remain in the collection today, on numerous tours. In 2005, Tom Marshall described the hero’s welcome that they received on the 1947 New England Glidden Revival Tour: 

Town after town released the kids from school so they could see the cavalcade of cars go by. In Brattleboro, the sidewalks were lined 3 or 4 deep. That night at Concord, Clarence Huggins, the Buick dealer there and an old car collector himself, allowed our cars to be stored overnight in his garage and shop. The public was informed that they could walk through and view the cars. It soon became necessary to rope off the cars, and the long lines continued until after 10 P.M.

 

Marshall Steam Team, May 2000.

Marshall Steam Team, May 2000. (Mel Chase)

Reviving the Hobby at Auburn Heights

Upon Clarence Marshall’s death in 1969, Tom Marshall inherited the collection, which at that time included 34 cars. Having no children, Tom began to think seriously in the 1990s about how to preserve and maintain the collection for future generations.  

In 1997, he invited a small group of auto enthusiasts to attend a series of lectures and demonstrations on the operation and maintenance of steam cars, thereby creating what would become known as the “Marshall Steam Team.” The volunteer corps grew, and in 2004 received a charter as a 501(c)3 charitable organization to be known as the Friends of Auburn Heights Preserve (FAHP).

Today, FAHP (in partnership with Delaware State Parks) operates and maintains the historic auto collection housed within the Marshall Steam Museum. The museum collection currently includes 15 Stanleys, one 1901 Mobile steam car, a 1916 Rauch & Lang electric car, a 1914 Ford Model T and two 1930s Packards.