Formed the Franklin Automobile Company in 1901
Produced the first air-cooled automobile engine in 1902
Established a new cross-country record of 28.8 miles per gallon in 1928
Herbert H. Franklin’s support of innovation brought some cool competition to the early years of the automobile industry. In 1901, after participating in several business ventures including a New York newspaper, Franklin teamed up with engineer John Wilkinson, who was developing an air-cooled engine. Wilkinson’s backers had lost interest in the engine project, so Franklin assumed control of the company, renaming it the Franklin Automobile Company. The first Franklin car was sold in 1902. Because its design eliminated water-cooling and related freezing problems, the air-cooled engines were attractive to physicians and others who needed reliable winter transportation. But the engines also had limited power, so weight was an important design consideration. Franklin cars were economical, fuel-efficient and beautiful, but as the competition improved, the limitations of the existing air-cooled engine technology began to show. The last Franklins were built in 1934. Temporarily dropping out of the automotive scene, Franklin emerged more than a decade later to produce another air-cooled engine used in the revolutionary Tucker automobile.