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Bicycles were all the rage. For the manufacturers of bicycles, bicycle

parts, and accessories it was a gold rush. In just four years bicycle ownership had increased by an astounding 250% and clubs organized tours that were hundreds of miles in length. The League of American Wheelmen became a powerful political force that lobbied for better roads. Astute businessmen such as Orville and Wilbur Wright were quick to capitalize on the

In the shadows of bicycle mania, a new technological wonder was being prepared for its debut. Ransom E. Olds mused on the advantages of a horseless carriage in an interview published by Scientific American in the 1880’s. In the early 1890’s the Duryea brothers became the first to begin manufacturing these horseless carriages, and Montgomery Ward noted that they were a sight to behold, something that every parent should take the children to see before the fad passed. Barnum & Bailey Circus gave a Duryea Motor Wagon top billing over the bearded lady AND the albino. 

In a new series of presentations I speak on this exciting era, the dramatic societal evolution that transformed the automobile from luxury item to necessity, and the rise of the U.S. highway system including Route 66. It is a fast paced, fun filled bit of time travel. These presentations are a portal, if you will, into a world where the automobile often shared the road with stagecoaches, manufacturers of bird cages were reborn as the producer of luxury automobiles, and legendary frontier era icons such as Buffalo Bill Cody took to the roads in Michigan roadsters.

The years between 1885 and 1930 were an incredible era of change, of technological wonder, and blending the old with the new. Did you know that Wyatt Earp was working in Los Angeles as a film consultant in the 1920’s? Dis you know that the inventor of cruise control was blind? Did you know that Chevrolet was an import? Did you that the Dodge brothers were instrumental in the success of Ford, Buick, and Oldsmobile?

I kicked off the series with a presentation in Jackson, Michigan at a fund raising event for the Hackett Automobile Museum. The event attracted a very receptive audience that gave the presentation favorable reviews, and led to numerous interviews including with a local television affiliate. Automotive enthusiasts, journalists, and amateur historians were intrigued to learn that Jackson was once home to more than 20 automobile manufacturers (St. Louis had more than 100), to hear about Edsel Ford’s epic cross continental trip in 1914, and to discover that Henry Ford played a role in the founding of Cadillac.

A similar presentation was made at the 2018 Miles of Possibility Conference at Blackburn College in Carlinville, Illinois. The response and reviews were just as favorable. So, now it is time to take it on the road.

The presentations are ideally suited for automotive events or conventions, museum fund raisers, Route 66 enthusiasts, and groups looking to enhance an event. I am preparing for the winter/spring 2019 tour, and am also creating a tentative schedule for spring. If this is something that would be of interest drop me a note at jima.hinckley@gmail.com

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