Buffalo Bill Cody at the tiller of a 1904 Michigan
It was a time of incredible transition. In the Arizona territory Geronimo was being pursued by the United States Army. Meanwhile in Michigan, Ransom E. Olds was tinkering with contraptions that would soon contribute to one greatest societal changes in world history. A few years later, in 1892, he detailed a few of his endeavors, and his vision for the future, in an an interview published in ScientificAmerican. He was quoted as saying about the automobile that, “…it never kicks or bite, never tires on long runs, and never sweats in hot weather. It does not require care in the stable and only eats while on the road.”
Peerless, a company that would rise to prominence as one of the nations leading manufacturers of luxury automobiles during the teens had its origins in the production of clothes wringers. With the explosion of bicycle popularity in the last decade of the 19th century, the company diversified production to include the two-wheelers for which America had developed an insatiable appetite.
Pierce-Arrow, another leader in the manufacture of American luxury cars during the teens, had as a cornerstone Heintz, Pierce & Munschauer, a manufacturer of iceboxes, birdcages, and other assorted household goods. As with Peerless, the manufacture of bicycles served as the interim step toward automobile production, and by the teens Pierce-Arrow challenged Rolls Royce for international dominance of the luxury automobile market. (more…)
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. (more…)
With the passing of time, when writing about history,
it becomes quite a challenge to separate myth and legend from fact and fiction. Even first person accounts can be fictitious when compared to facts if enough time has passed, and a story can be told so often that myth becomes truth. Adding weight to legends that become fact are first person accounts, an interview at the time of an incident that provides a perspective derived from fear, prejudice, or even shadowing that obscured detail.
Case in point, the honeymoon suite for Clark Gable and Carole Lombard at the hotel in Oatman, Arizona. Yes, the couple did marry in Kingman late one afternoon, at the Methodist Episcopal church that still stands on the corner of Fifth and Spring Streets. Yes, there was a small wedding reception at the Brunswick Hotel afterwards, and there was an early morning press conference in Los Angeles early the following morning. So, is the story of the honeymoon suite fact or fiction? If it is myth, what are the origins?
Through the magic that is “shopping on line” there is still ample time to order a gift or two, and have it arrive on Christmas. As an author I prefer the giving of books, and as I am firmly grounded in the era of the Model A Ford, my preference is for books with paper pages. Even though I applaud and encourage reading of books in any form, it seems unnatural to spend time in the reading room with a Kindleand am quite convinced that a Kindle is a very poor substitute for a Sears catalog.So, let me begin with a sales tool. I can not attest to the validity of the statistics presented but do know that books will greatly enhance life, in spite of the impression often given in school.
These are gift suggestions for the armchair traveler in your family, or the adventurer that spends the winter reading about and planning adventures. Of course, you can always choose to let them shop for themselves with an Amazon gift card.
The first suggestion is Motoring West: Automobile Pioneers, 1900 – 1909by Peter J. Blodgett. This book is actually a series of short stories – written in the opening years of the 20th century. They detail the adventures of early “automobilists” as they pioneered cross country travel by automobile.
Here is an excerpt. This is from the story Automobiling in the West published originally in Scientific America on August 3, 1901. “Pull out block and tackle, wade around in the mud, get soaked to the skin and chilled from the effects of the deluge, make fastenings to the fence or telegraph post and pull. Pull hard, dig your heels into the mud, and exert every effort at command. The machine moves, your feet slip, and down in the mud you go full length. Repeat the dose and continue the operation until the machine is free from the ditch and again upon the road.”
As we are talking about pioneering automobilists, another book that I highly recommend is By Motor to the Golden Gateby Emily Post. Originally published in 1916, this illustrated book presents a fascinating look at early cross country travel and it is written in a manner that places the reader in the passenger seat. As a bonus, some of Post’s trip was along sections of the National Old Trails Highway that latter become Route 66.
For another tremendous book that highlights the adventure and challenges of motoring in the American back country before the advent of the US highway system, I recommend The American Road.
This book is the chronicle of an astounding military expedition that was designed to test the viability of long distance military convoys utilizing motor vehicles, and call attention to the good roads movement that eventually resulted in the creation of the US highway system. Well written, this book almost reads like a novel filled with adventure. Amply illustrated with historic images from the 1919 convoy, and the fact that the future president Dwight David Eisenhower was involved, ensure this will be a memorable read.
The holiday season is a perfect time for telling folks where to go, and if you do it right, they will look forward to the trip. Next week, I will share one more list of gift suggestions.