100 Years Ago Today

A History Of Events And Happenings From Exactly One Hundred Years Ago

Archive for the category “automobile”

Issued January 11, 1913

Since 1902 COLLIERS WEEKLY magazine has had a yearly Automobile Number highlighting the latest developments in automotive design. It has been singularly helpful in promoting the fledgling industry. The 1913 offering is presented in it’s own separate Automotive section.


SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN featured a color cover showing the assembly of automobiles. The contents focused on the automobile industry including many photos and related car ads.


January 11, 1913

Robert Robinson was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in 1886. He studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and from 1909 to 1912 with the famous illustrator, Howard Pyle. He moved to New York to be near magazine publishers and helped originate the Saturday Evening Post’s “Slice of Life” style of cover art. Robinson’s typical work focused on rural men “old geezer” types. On January 11, 1913 Robinson featured his “old man” taking the grandma on a fast ride in an automobile.


January 11, 1913



Candidate Wilson Injured In Auto Mishap In New Jersey

The US presidential election are 3 day away and the candidates are capigning furiously. Democratic candidate New Jersey governor Woodrow Wilson is in his home state.

On November 2, 1912 Wilson was returning home to Princeton from a political meeting in Red Bank. He was traveling on the outskirts of Highstown when his limousine reached a stretch of road where workman had been digging on a water main. A shadow from a telephone pole obscured a mound of dirt and when the auto hit the bump, the passengers were thrown upwards from their seats and Wilson struck his head on a steel bracing beam in the car leaving a 3 inch gash on his forehead. He was taken to a local doctor in Highstown and treated.

“I guess I’m too hard-headed to be hurt. The worse thing about this is that it makes me appear prematurely bald. I suppose I’ll attract some attention from the gallery in Patterson tomorrow for the physicians tell me I’ll have to wear this plaster for a few days. Otherwise, I’m alright and it didn’t even give me a headache.”

1912 presidential candidate New Jersey governor Woodrow Wilson

1912 Vanderbilt Cup in Wisconsin

The Vanderbilt Cup was started by William Kissam Vanderbilt II who loved races : horse races, yacht races and especially the new automobile races. He would anger citizens and officials alike when he sped furiously through the towns and villages of Long Island, New York. In 1904 Vanderbilt held the first Vanderbilt Cup a race drew the 14 top drivers and their vehicles from across the Atlantic Ocean as well as America. The Vanderbilt Cup was instrumental in improving the technology of the emerging automobile as companies participated and made improvements on the racing model that they incorporate in their commercial vehicles.

In 1912 the Vaderbilt Cup is being held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with drivers driving the best and fastest competition cars of the time. The 8 competitors is the smallest field ever but with the best racers in America : Teddy Tetzlaff, Ralph De Palma, Spencer Wishart and Ralph Mulford. It was supposed the be one of the greatest sporting events of the year but bad weather forced a 2 week delay wiping out the profits for the event.On October 2, 1912 a crowd of 60,000 watched 38 laps of the 299.44 mile race ticked off one-by-one to see Ralph DePalma take the 299-mile road course Vanderbilt Cup in his 90hp Mercedes. Drivers are dissatisfied with the track and it looks like it will be awhile before a race is held in Milwaukee.

1912 Vanderbilt Cup Pit Crew badge

Heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson attending the 1912 Vanderbilt Cup race
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
October 2, 1912

1912 Vanderbilt Cup Race
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
October 2, 1912

French Aviation Pioneer Dies In Car Crash

Although the Wright Brothers first flew an airplane in 1903, the event was barely reported. The feat was never widely acknowledge and only followed by other aviation pioneers. France was one of the earliest leaders in the new technology of aviation. Gabriel Voison had collaborated with Louis Blériot in 1905. Voisin bought out Louis Blériot and along with his brother Charles started a company called Flying Machines of Voisin Brothers in November 1906. This was the first commercial aircraft factory in Europe. One of their first customers was pioneer pilot Henri Farman who won on of the first air races, the “Grand Prix de l’aviation” for the first closed-circuit flight of over a kilometer. The Wright Brothers had not been recognized yet and this was seen as a major breakthrough in the conquest of the air. The Voisin brothers got many orders for similar aircraf. In 1908 the Wright Brothers came to France and gave some very public flight demonstrations that were widely received by the public and press. The fame that had eluded them in the US finally was found in France. Flight was taken as a practical reality and the Voison brothers were at the forefront.

On September 26, 1912 Charles Voison, master of the air, was killed in an auto accident. Woman aviator Baroness de Laroche was injured in the same accident.

Gabriel (L) and Charles (R) Voison

Auto Races Close State Fair In Kansas

The city of Hutchinson, Kansas was founded in 1871 when Indian Agent Clinton “C.C.” Hutchinson contracted with the Santa Fe Railway to make a town at the railroad’s crossing over the Arkansas River. It became a main railway stop and the largest city in Reno County, Kansas. The city held its first county fair in 1875. By 1885 annual attendance exceeded 10,000. By the 1900’s major cities in Kansas were vying for the designation of official State Fair. Hutchinson and Topeka are main contenders and each is calling themselves “state fairs” unofficially. The Kansas state legislature will take it up next year.

On September 21, 1912 on the closing day of the State Fair in Hutchinson the grandstand was packed with 3,000 people watching motorcycle racing and automobile racing.

Auto races
1912 Kansas State Fair at Hutchinson
September 21, 1912

First Transcontinental Truck Delivery Reaches California

In June 1912 Teamsters from the Charles W Young Company in Philadelphia set out to make the first transcontinental shipment of goods in the US.

Parrot Brand Textile Soap

The truck is an Alco, built by the American Locomotive Company. It has a capacity of 3½ tons, is rated at 40 horsepower and is capable of an average speed of 12 mph. The weight of the chassis is 6,800 pounds; the body weight, 1,200 pounds. Platform measurements are 14 feet by 5 feet 6 inches. Top speed 30mph. These drivers had no gas stations, no roadside restaurants, no restrooms, no padded seats, no shocks on the truck and no real protection from the weather. They had breakdowns along the way and struggle over rough road and “no road” conditions. The route was ocean to ocean: Philadelphia to New York City, Albany, Syracuse and Buffalo; on to Cleveland and Toledo; through Indiana via South Bend; then Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska. Denver was next, then Cheyenne, Salt Lake City, Reno, Sacramento and San Francisco.

The ALCO truck breaks a bridge in Iowa

On September 20, 1912 91 days after they started the first Transcontinental truck delivery arrived at San Francisco City Hall greeted by booming guns, a parade and reception for the crew. Tomorrow they will head to the Carlson-Currier Silk Mill to deliver their cargo.

The story of the 1st Transcontinental Delivery :http://town.blogs.petaluma360.com/11799/bringing-silk-soap-to-petaluma/


First Fire Truck Company In Los Angeles

The Knox Automobile Company of Springfield, Massachusetts was established in 1900. In 1905 the first modern fire engine was constructed by Knox based on the standard truck model. A year later the City of Springfield, Massachusetts was the world’s first fire department to use fire trucks supplied by Knox Fire Engines.

Major cities slowly adapted to the new motorized fire engine. With many horse drawn firetrucks still in use, these new technological innovations were integrated into existing engine companies. In Los Angeles, California a 1911 Seagrave AC-80 City Service Truck SN #78 went into service at Los Angeles Fire Department Engine 23 in January 1912. It was one of the two first auto ladder trucks purchased by the Los Angeles Fire Department and was given the designation Truck No. 5.

On September 5, 1912 Truck 5 moved to Engine 16 which became Truck Company 6, the Los Angeles Fire Department’s first firetruck company.

Engine 16, Truck 6 of the Los Angeles Fire Department
LAFD’s first fire truck No. 5 at left

Transcontinental Highway Proposed

In 1880 bicycle enthusiasts met to form the League of American Wheelmen to promote the use of bicycles. In 1892 the LAW published Good Roads Magazine which eventually reached a circulation of 1 million. One of the things advocated was the improvement of roads in America. In 1893 the US Department of Agriculture initiated a systematic evaluation of existing highway systems.

As the automobile developed it became apparent that whereas most goods had been delivered by rail, transportation of materials and businesses would be more and more dependent on reliable roadways. There was no federal highway system and many state government forbade funding “internal improvements” relying on local governments to build and maintain roads.

Carl G Fisher made his fortune in automobile manufacture with the Prest-O-Lite compressed carbide-gas headlights used on most early cars and founded the Indianapolis 500. He foresaw the needs of good roads to help the growth of the automobile industry. In 1912 he began promoting his dream of a transcontinental highway.

On September 1, 1912 Fisher hosted a dinner for his colleagues in the automotive industry and unveiled his plans for the Lincoln Highway to be completed by May 1, 1915, in time for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. He estimated the cost at about $10 million. “A road across the United States! Let’s build it before we’re too old to enjoy it!”

Carl G Fisher

First Automobile Journey Across Canada

Ransom E Olds, the inventor of the Oldsmobile, sold the Oldsmobile Company in 1904. Olds felt he could build a better automobile and started the R E Olds Motor Car Company in 1905. To avoid lawsuits, he changed the name to REO Motor Car Company. In 1908 REO Motor Car Company was bought by General Motors.

In 1912 British travel writer Thomas Wilby convinced REO Motor Car of Canada to sponsor a automobile journey across Canada. He brought with him Jack Haney, one of the Reo Company’s young mechanics.

On August 27, 1912 Thomas Wilby and Jack Haney were setting out to become the first motorists to cross Canada. They backed the wheels of the REO Motor Car 5 passenger touring car into the waters off Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, scooped up a flaskful of Atlantic water and with the yell “All on board for Vancouver!” took off even though there is only 16 kilometres of paved road in the entire country.

Thomas Wilby sits at the wheel of the REO Motor Car 5 with it’s back tires in the Atlantic as Jack Haney scoops some ocean water at the beginning of their journey across Canada
August 27, 1912

French Grand Prix Winner Wins Again In France

Mont Ventoux Hill Climb is a car and motorcycle race course near Avignon in France. A championship race has been held there since 1902. The course starts from the village of Bédoin and rises 5,289 feet for 13.4 miles to the observatory at the summit. The 1912 winner is Georges Boillot in his Peugeot L76 who also won the French Grand Prix in the same car in June.


M Boillot on the Grand Prix Peugeot winning the Mont Ventoux Hill Climb
August 11, 1912
painting by Guy Lipscombe

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