Charles Kettering

Charles Kettering, who invented electric starters, works in his early-1900’s laboratory. (Image/

The electric starter is officially a centenarian.

On Aug. 17, 1915, Charles Kettering was issued a patent for his “engine-starting device”—the first automotive electric starter.

Kettering, co-founder of Dayton Engineering Laboratories Co. (or DELCO), was tasked with developing the new starter by Cadillac in 1911.

Prior to electric starters, drivers used iron hand cranks to fire their engines. In addition to being physically demanding, it was also dangerous because if drivers forgot to turn off the ignition before turning the crank, cars would sometimes backfire or lurch forward because so many of them were not equipped with brakes.

So please join us in saying: happy birthday, electric starter!

Share this Article
Author: Matt Griswold

After a 10-year newspaper journalism career, Matt Griswold spent another decade writing about the automotive aftermarket and motorsports. He was part of the original OnAllCylinders editorial team when it launched in 2012.