- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 25, 2009

President Obama misspoke Tuesday night when he credited the U.S. with the invention of the automobile as part of his call for investing in the industry.

“I believe the nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it,” Mr. Obama said in his address to a joint session of Congress.

But the Library of Congress says, while noting that the issue is complicated, that the honor should go to Karl Friedrich Benz of Germany, who in 1886 received the first patent for what the Library calls the “first true automobile” — a gasoline-powered engine attached to a three-wheeled vehicle.

Other claimants include French and Scottish inventors, who had created vehicles with engines powered by steam or electricity well before Benz.

The first American inventor was George Baldwin Selden, who in 1895 patented a gasoline-powered internal combustion engine with a carriage. The first successful gas-powered car was built in 1893 by the Duryea brothers, who the Library of Congress said set up the first American car-manufacturing company.