Information for Researchers
Scope and Content
Collection Title: Abner Doble Papers,
Date (inclusive): 1885-1963
Collection Number: BANC MSS 77/183 c
Number of containers: 4 cartons, 8 oversize folders, 19 volumes
Linear feet: 8.55
349 digital objects
Berkeley, California 94720-6000
Abstract: The Abner Doble Papers consists of correspondence, drawings, reports, patents, photographs, and notebooks documenting Doble's
role in the development of 20th century steam technology. Collection also includes papers relating to the Doble family, several
of whom were also engineers and inventors, including Doble's grandfather and namesake Abner Doble, his father William Ashton
Doble, and his brother Warren Doble.
Physical Location: Many of the Bancroft Library collections are stored offsite and advance notice may be required for use. For current information
on the location of these materials, please consult the library's online catalog.
Information for Researchers
Collection is open for research.
Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish or reproduce must be submitted
in writing to the Head of Public Services, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-6000. Permission
for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include
or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.
Copyright restrictions also apply to digital representations of the original materials. Use of digital files is restricted
to research and educational purposes.
[Identification of item], Abner Doble Papers, BANC MSS 77/183 c, The Bancroft Library,University of California, Berkeley.
Photographs transferred to the Bancroft Pictorial Collections
Identifier/Call Number: (BANC PIC 1961.008-.009)
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
Automobile industry and trade--California.
Automobiles, Steam--Design and construction.
Doble Steam Motors Corporation
Steam-engines--Design and construction.
The Abner Doble Papers were given to the Bancroft Library by Mrs. Alene Doble, Warren Doble, and William A. Doble in 1961.
Additions were made in 2005 by the Geisel Library.
No additions are expected.
Processed by Juliet Demeter in 2003.
Abner Doble was born in San Francisco, California on March 26, 1890. At the age of eight, he began an apprenticeship at the
Abner Doble Company, the factory founded by his grandfather and namesake. His father, William Ashton Doble, was inventor of
the Pelton-Doble Water Wheel and chief engineer for the Pelton Water Wheel Co., which eventually merged with his family's
business. Abner Doble designed and built his first steam car while a student Lick High School in San Francisco. He attended
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1910-1912, but left college in order to focus his attention on the development
of steam automobiles. In 1912 he developed the Doble Model "A" in Waltham, Massachusetts, soon followed by the Doble Model
"B" roadster. In 1915 Doble drove the Model "B" to Detroit where the General Engineering Company offered to put it into production.
Renamed the Doble-Detroit, his car was introduced at the New York auto show of 1917. Although over 10,000 orders came in for
the model, wartime demand for steel put manufacturing on hold and only 30 Doble-Detroit cars were ever produced.
In 1920 Doble and his brothers organized the Doble Steam Motors Corporation in San Francisco with the intention of developing
the finest steam car ever built. Doble modeled his factory, which later moved across the bay to Emeryville, on the Rolls-Royce
plant in Springfield, Massachusetts. The cars manufactured by Doble were luxury vehicles guaranteed to run for 100,000 miles.
Their reputation for fine performance spread and orders came in quickly. The production process was costly, as well as enormously
time consuming, given the amount of attention paid to nearly every detail of the car's manufacture. As a result of Doble's
high standards, the company manufactured only 42 cars between 1923 and 1931. Finally, unable to secure adequate financing,
Doble Steam Motors went bankrupt in 1931. Despite the company's failure, steam enthusiasts still consider the Doble steam
car of this era to be among the best ever produced.
After the collapse of his company, Doble became consultant to several firms engaged in the development of steam technology.
In Germany he helped to develop steam powered trains, buses, trucks and boats for A. Borsig, Co. and Henschel & Sohn. He worked
on steam trucks and railcars for Sentinel Waggon Works in England and steam buses for A & G Price, Ltd., New Zealand. In 1946
Doble was retained by Nordberg Manufacturing Company, Milwaukee, Wisconsin to develop a steam power plant for city buses.
This engine, known as the Ultimax, was the culmination of Doble's nearly four decades of experience in steam technology. Another
firm later attempted to employ the Ultimax for use in railway locomotives. Finally, in 1950, McCulloch Motors of Los Angeles
hired Doble as consultant on the development of the Paxton Phoenix, a steam powered luxury car fitted with an Ultimax engine.
Once again, lack of funding forced the company to abandon the project and the car was never completed.
Doble continued to work as a consultant throughout the 1950's. One of his last projects was for Charles F. Keen of Milwaukee
on the development of the Keen steam car in 1956.
Abner Doble died in Santa Rosa, California on July 16, 1961.
||Born March 26, San Francisco, CA
||Apprenticeship at the Abner Doble Company, San Francisco, CA
||Attends Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA
||Develops the Doble Model A, Waltham, MA
||Develops the Doble Model B Roadster, Waltham, MA
||Introduces Doble-Detroit Steam Car, Detroit, MI
||Doble Steam Motors factory opens in San Francisco, CA
||Factory moved to Emeryville, CA
||Consultant to A & G Price, Ltd., New Zealand
||Consultant to Sentinel Waggon Works, Shrewsbury, England
||Doble Steam Motors closes
||Consultant to A. Borsig Co., Berlin, Germany
||Consultant to Henschel & Sohn, Kassel, Germany
||Consultant to Nordberg Manufacturing Co., Milwaukee, WI
||Consultant on development of Paxton Phoenix steam car for McCulloch Motors Corporation, Los Angeles, CA
||Consultant on Keen steam car, Milwaukee, WI
||Consultant on monotube boiler for Charles W. Tadlock, St. Louis, MO
||Died July 16 in Santa Rosa, CA
Scope and Content
The Abner Doble Papers, 1885-1963, consist of correspondence, drawings, reports, patents, and notebooks documenting his role
in the development of twentieth century steam technology. The collection also includes papers relating to his family, several
of whom were engineers and inventors, including his grandfather and namesake Abner Doble, his father William Ashton Doble,
and his brother Warren Doble.
Materials include drawings and engineering notebooks for Doble's early automotive designs, as well as records of the Doble
Steam Motors factory in Emeryville, California where Doble and his brothers manufactured what are still considered to be among
the finest steam cars ever made. Also included are papers relating to Doble's career as consultant to several firms in the
U.S., Europe, and New Zealand where he worked on the development of steam trucks, buses and locomotives. The collection also
includes records of Doble's consulting work in the early 1950's for the Paxton Engineering Division of McCulloch Motors Corporation,
Los Angeles, to develop the Paxton Phoenix, a steam car fitted with the Doble Ultimax engine. Family papers include materials
relating to the Abner Doble Company, San Francisco, and Doble's father William Ashton Doble, inventor of the Doble-Pelton
This collection includes the Doble Family Papers, 1912-1960, C-B 827, which were integrated with the Abner Doble Papers in