The End of an Era: 1916-1940
By 1914, both F.E. and F.O. became focused on ventures beyond steam cars, and the fortunes of their company faced tough times following the introduction of the electric starter, which propelled sales of internal combustion vehicles, and the rise of Henry Ford’s empire. It was no surprise, therefore, that the twins began to think of retiring. They sold the Stanley Motor Carriage Co. in May 1917, and the new Stanley Motor Carriage Co. was incorporated in 1917. Although there were no immediate changes to the cars, the new management began to spend more time and money on advertising through both direct mail and print ad campaigns.
Although F.E. and F.O. left the steam car business, they never gave up on steam technology, turning instead to the development of a steam-powered self-contained rail car for interurban routes (known as a unit railway car). With others, they incorporated the Unit Railway Car Company in Boston in 1915, but the endeavor lost momentum after F.E Stanley’s tragic death a car accident in July of 1918. Following the death of his twin, F.O. embraced a “real” retirement and returned to whittling and making violins with his nephew. F.O. Stanley died in 1940.
Despite attempts to modernize in the absence of the twins who had defined the business, the Stanley Motor Carriage Company suffered lagging sales. In 1924, the recently incorporated Steam Vehicle Corporation of America took over its production line in Newton, Massachusetts and made a few dozen Stanley vehicles, but the company proved unsustainable and filed for bankruptcy in 1926.