American Automotive History & Documentation

Nov. 28, 2016
About This Kool Project

During the Fall 2016 semester we developed HPCP 290: American Automotive History & Documentation as a student-training internship course. Since the 1990s the College of Charleston's Historic Preservation program has taught similar classes that have focused on historic buildings and landscapes, so this was  our first to address automobiles. As part of this internship-training opportunity we conducted a Historic American Engineering Record documentation of one of the few surviving Anderson automobiles, South Carolina’s only historic automotive manufacturer, which flourished during the 1910s and 1920s. After documenting the best preserved Anderson the information was used to nominate it onto the National Historic Vehicle Register. The funding from RPM Foundation and the Historic Vehicle Association was used as a stipend-scholarship for the 20 student-interns. Since the laboratory and major equipment are located in Allentown, PA the students traveled there to learn and use it. The data/information produced was taken back to Charleston, SC for analysis and use. This grant assisted the 20 student-interns learn how to conduct hands-on, professional level heritage documentation of historic vehicles. They are now able to use the skills acquired through this experience in their future careers as preservationists of motor vehicles, in addition to buildings and landscapes. From October 20-22, 2016) a select number of student-interns also presented their work at the "Driving History: Protecting Our Overlooked Automotive Heritage in the Twenty-first Century" Conference, as a demonstration of best practices for heritage documentation of historic vehicles (per the guidelines established between the Historic Vehicle Association and the Library of Congress). The demonstration is intended to inform other historic preservation (usually of buildings) and automotive restoration college/university programs on ways to expand, enhance, and enrich their curriculums.

Nov. 28, 2016

Students from the College of Charleston’s Historic Preservation and Community Planning program recently researched the complete history of a classic 1920 Anderson Six Convertible Roadster as part of a course titled “American Automotive History and Documentation.”

The vehicle, owned by Paul and Kathleen Ianuario of Duncan, South Carolina, is one of only seven known survivors of South Carolina’s first automobile company, The Anderson Motor Company. This research on the Roadster conducted by the students makes it the first automobile added to the National Historic Vehicle Register because of its local and regional historic significance. The Roadster now joins other significant automobiles on the register, including a 1964 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe prototype; President Ronald Reagan’s Willy’s ‘Jeep’ CJ-6; and the first presidential limousine, a 1909 White Steam Car used by President William Howard Taft.

Working closely with the Historic Vehicle Association and using archive records in Charleston, Columbia, and Rock Hill, S.C., the students were able to piece together important information about the vehicle, including the car’s ownership through the years. They also conducted a detailed photographic study of the car to better understand the vehicle’s South Carolina-made materials and engineering components. Scaled measured drawings – similar to what is done for historic buildings – were also made of the car.

The project was funded through generous grants from the Restoration, Preservation, Mentorship (RPM) Foundation and the Historic Vehicle Association. When the research was completed, the information was sent to the Historic Vehicle Register, which was established within the U.S. Department of the Interior to document historically significant automobiles from America’s past in U.S. Library of Congress.

In the early 1900’s, the Anderson Motor Company built about 5,500 of the roadsters in Rock Hill. The car’s body style allowed the car to quickly “convert” from a sleek roadster to a five-passenger touring car. The Roadster was first offered for the 1919 model year and remained in the lineup until 1922.

Historic Preservation and Community Planning professor Barry Stiefel believes that this historic preservation class is the only university course in the country that is conducting both teaching and research on automotive heritage. “We are using methods that have already been developed for historic buildings and landscapes, with some minor adaptions for the uniqueness of automobiles,” says Stiefel.

The Historic Preservation and Community Planning program envisions this class as the first in an expanding curriculum that will include historic motor vehicles in addition to buildings, landscapes and other aspects of heritage material culture.

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  • Anderson
  • Auto
  • College of Charleston
  • Historic Preservation