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Burton A. Becker (left) stands in front of the factory on Amanda Street in Clyde.

From Bicycles to Automobiles

The Elmore Manufacturing Company was located at 51 Amanda Street, Clyde, Ohio, from 1893 to 1912. The founder, Harmon Becker, moved to Elmore, Ohio in 1869 with his wife and four children, where he established a sawmill and stave factory on the banks of the Portage River. Becker and his sons, James and Burton, began manufacturing bicycles in Elmore in 1892. Looking for more spacious quarters to produce their Elmore Bicycles, the Beckers in 1893 purchased an empty organ factory in Clyde. From an operation that employed 50 workers and produced 500 bicycles in 1892, the new Clyde plant was able to manufacture 1,500 bicycles in 1898 using 80 employees.

Not willing to sell their business to the American Bicycle Company, a trust, the Beckers quit making bicycles in 1897, and began to concentrate their energies on the building of automobiles. In 1898 the Beckers began the construction of a two-cycle motor, and had a car on the road by early 1900. By February 1 of that year, the very first Elmore car had been assembled with the second following three months later. In 1902 the Beckers introduced the horizontal-type motor, changing the design in 1903 to a 2-cylinder engine.

According to the Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805-1942 (Krause Publications, 1985): "Early Elmores had a single-cylinder engine mounted under the seat; another cylinder was added in 1903 which Elmore claimed to be 'the only double-cylinder motor in the world that can be started without cranking.' Elmore was almost belligerent in its championing of the two-stroke idea; 'The Car That Has No Valves' remained the company slogan for all of its life."

The Elmore Manufacturing Company was the biggest maker and booster of the valveless engine. It was the simplicity of the two-cycle engine that appealed to the Beckers, who felt that a motorcar, at best, was a very complex product, and if it were smaller than the other cars it would be easier to sell.

With production rising to three cars per day in 1903, the company began to enter its product in endurance races throughout the country. The Elmore Pathfinder, which was produced in the spring of 1904, participated in the American Automobile Association sponsored race from New York to the St. Louis World's Fair in July, surprisingly winning the event. The Beckers also competed for the prized Glidden Cup in 1905 and 1906, and on the Munsy Tour, Washington to Boston in September 1909, the Elmore was the only car to go the entire distance with a perfect record.

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