1895 George Selden patents gas-powered car On November 5, 1895, Rochester attorney George Selden wins U.S. Patent No. 549,160 for an “improved road engine” powered by a “liquid-hydrocarbon engine of the compression type.” With that, as far as the government was concerned, George Selden had invented the car–though he had never built a single one. Selden’s design was fairly vague, and was actually based on a two-cylinder internal-combustion engine that someone else had invented: Selden had simply copied the one he’d seen on display at the 1872 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. In 1899, Selden sold his patent to a group of investors who called themselves the Electric Vehicle Company. In turn, they immediately sued the Winton Motor Carriage Company, the largest car manufacturer in the United States, for infringing on the Selden patent just by building gas-powered cars. Winton settled, and the court upheld Selden’s patent in 1903. Soon, some automakers realized that the Selden patent didn’t have to be a threat to their business. On the contrary, it could be quite profitable and limit competition in a highly competitive industry. About 30 car companies, including Winton, got together with Selden and the EVC to form the Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers (ALAM). The ALAM sued anyone who built a gas-powered car without Selden’s permission–in other words, anyone who had not paid to join the Selden cartel. It also drummed up business for its own members by threatening to sue anyone who bought a car from an unlicensed company. (Its ads warned: “Don’t buy a lawsuit with your new automobile!”) But Selden’s group, composed mostly of Eastern carmakers that built ritzy cars for rich buyers, made a mistake: It excluded the Midwestern manufacturers who built lower-priced cars for ordinary people. In particular, it excluded Henry Ford. On October 22, 1903, the ALAM sued Ford for patent infringement, but the case took until 1909, seven months after the Model T was introduced, to go to trial. Most Americans, delighted to have the opportunity to buy an affordable car, were on Ford’s side, but the judge was not: The court ruled that any gas-powered vehicle unlicensed by the ALAM violated the Selden patent and was illegal. But on January 11, 1911, the appeals court ruled in Ford’s favor: the Selden patent, it said, only applied to replicas of the exact engine that Selden had seen in 1872. 1862 300 Santee Sioux sentenced to hang in Minnesota On this day in Minnesota, more than 300 Santee Sioux are found guilty of raping and murdering Anglo settlers and are sentenced to hang. A month later, President Abraham Lincoln commuted all but 39 of the death sentences. One of the Indians was granted a last-minute reprieve, but the other 38 were hanged simultaneously on December 26 in a bizarre mass execution witnessed by a large crowd of approving Minnesotans. The Santee Sioux were found guilty of joining in the so-called “Minnesota Uprising,” which was actually part of the wider Indian wars that plagued the West during the second half of the nineteenth century. For nearly half a century, Anglo settlers invaded the Santee Sioux territory in the beautiful Minnesota Valley, and government pressure gradually forced the Indians to relocate to smaller reservations along the Minnesota River. At the reservations, the Santee were badly mistreated by corrupt federal Indian agents and contractors; during July 1862, the agents pushed the Indians to the brink of starvation by refusing to distribute stores of food because they had not yet received their customary kickback payments. The contractors callously ignored the Santee’s pleas for help. Outraged and at the limits of their endurance, the Santee finally struck back, killing Anglo settlers and taking women as hostages. The initial efforts of the U.S. Army to stop the Santee warriors failed, and in a battle at Birch Coulee, Santee Sioux killed 13 American soldiers and wounded another 47 soldiers. However, on September 23, a force under the leadership of General Henry H. Sibley finally defeated the main body of Santee warriors at Wood Lake, recovering many of the hostages and forcing most of the Indians to surrender. The subsequent trials of the prisoners gave little attention to the injustices the Indians had suffered on the reservations and largely catered to the popular desire for revenge. However, President Lincoln’s commutation of the majority of the death sentences clearly reflected his understanding that the Minnesota Uprising had been rooted in a long history of Anglo abuse of the Santee Sioux.