Iowa inventor William Morrison showcased America’s first practical electric car at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Unlike crude electric carriages that came before, Morrison’s surrey featured rechargeable batteries, rack-and-pinion steering and high-spoked wheels for traversing rutted roads. Morrison entered the car in a winter road race in 1895 and ran 13 of the 53 miles of the course in six inches of snow before running out of power. Soon after, commercial manufacturers scrambled to get in on the action. By 1900, a third of the nation’s 4,000-plus cars were electric-powered.
Originally published in the August 2009 issue of American History. To subscribe, click here.