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Yankee Ingenuity

Stanley Brothers in First Car

While F.E. and F.O. Stanley attended school to become teachers rather than engineers, they nonetheless completed their first automobile, shown here, in 1897. (Marshall Steam Museum Archives)

Twins Francis Edgar (F.E.) and Freelan Oscar (F.O.) Stanley were born on June 1, 1849, in Kingfield, Maine, and demonstrated their business acumen as youngsters. At age eight, they built a water-powered lathe in their backyard and made spinning tops to sell to classmates. 

By their 30s, the twins had become profitable businessmen and equal partners in the Stanley Dry Plate Company, producing photographic dry plates using a secret formula and revolutionizing the photo production process. Following their early successes, in 1896, after watching demonstrations of internal combustion and electric vehicles at a local fair in Brockton, Massachusetts, F.E. decided that he could build a better vehicle, powered by steam. 

The Practical Drawing Set

Twins Francis Edgar (F.E.) and Freelan Oscar (F.O.) Stanley, born to Solomon and Apphia Kezar French Stanley in Kingfield, Maine, on June 1, 1849. (Stanley Museum Archives)

During his years as a teacher, F.O. Stanley observed the need for simple and economical drawing tools for students. His “Practical Drawing Set” included a small metal right angle, a compass, a paperboard protractor, a right triangle and a six-inch ruler. By mechanizing the manufacturing process for his product, he was able to run a successful factory, an experience that would prove useful when later working with F.E. in the brothers’ dry plate business.

1886 Plate Coating Patent

F.E. and F.O. Stanley dry-plate machine patent, 1886. (U.S. Patent and Trademark Office)

F.E. Stanley left teaching to open a photography studio in 1874 and achieved success with airbrush portraiture using his patented airbrush design. Determined to improve the portrait process, he developed his own dry plate formulation and began selling plates to other photographers. The Stanley coating machine, patented in 1886, revolutionized photo processing by increasing production from 60 plates an hour (when coated by hand) to 60 plates a minute. 

Stanley Dry Plate Box

Stanley dry plates, produced after the company was acquired by Eastman Kodak in 1905. (Marshall Steam Museum Archives)

Invented in 1871 by Dr. Richard L Maddox, the gelatin or dry plate photographic process involved coating glass photographic plates with a light-sensitive gelatin emulsion and allowing them to dry prior to use. After exposure, the plates were brought to a darkroom for development at leisure, a clear improvement over the earlier wet collodion glass plates, which had to be prepared prior to exposure and developed immediately after.

Rear view of Auburn Heights, 1897

Rear view of Auburn Heights, ca. 1897.

Marshall Connection
Building the House

Construction of the Marshall mansion began in 1896 and was completed in 1897, the same year the Stanley brothers built their first horseless carriage. Owner Israel Marshall named the home after the Auburn Mill that sat immediately below.