When Gas Buggies Took Over



            In 1904 you could buy a rib roast of beef for ten cents a pound, coffee for twenty-five cents a pound and potatoes for ninety cents a bushel.  A good cook received $5.00 a week and a good carpenter was paid $2.00 a day.  The Wrights had made their first flight at Kitty Hawk just the year before and the Ford Motor Company had put its first model on the market.  The model T would not come out for another four years.


            It would be 1912 before Charles Kettering would invent the first practical electrical self-starter for the new-fangled automobile.  And watch out when you cranked it!  Crank with an upward stroke and not a downward movement or you would break your arm.


            By 1904 there were close to two hundred thousand automobiles on the roads of this country.  Gasoline was bought in open cans from hardware dealers and repairs made by machine shops and blacksmiths.  That was true in Quincy as elsewhere.


            Automobiles were an expensive luxury and not always very popular.  Many roads were posted with such signs as “The automobile is the curse of the country road.”  Parts were especially expensive.  An Atlas 30 X 3-1/2-inch tire, guaranteed for 5,000 miles, cost $48.39.  Exactly how many automobiles were in Quincy in 1904 is not known, but ut was time to place limitations on them!


            On April 4, 1904, the Quincy City Council passed its first ordinance governing automobiles on the city streets.  It was drafted by Alderman William Mills, Harry Coffield, Louis Ebert, George Koehler, J.F. Tellbuescher, Gottlieb Schanz, Charles Achelpohl, John Moriarty, William McMein, William Channon and  A.C. Bickhaus, John Steinkamp was mayor and John Berlin city clerk.


            The ordinance required that no vehicle should be propelled or driven unless the person in charge be possessed of a thorough knowledge of the vehicle and of the method of “controlling its propulsion” and be experienced in handling the same, whether for business or pleasure.


            The speed within the section of the city bounded by the river, Spring Street, Ohio Street and Twelfth should be eight miles an hour and no vehicle should cross any intersection at a greater speed than eight miles an hour.  Outside this area the speed was limited to ten miles an hour.


            All vehicles would have a license number painted on the back, not less than three inches high, and the owner would apply to the city clerk for such number before running his “benzine buggy” on the city streets.  If the driver of a restive horse requested it, the car had to be brought to a complete stop.


            An alarm bell of not less than four inches in diameter and a horn were to be on the vehicle.  Alderman McMein said all the machines in the city were equipped with horns and he wanted a gong used.  Another thought the people would confuse this with fire and police apparatus and Alderman Bickhaus said it didn’t matter-a horn sounded like a gong anyway!


            In 1904 the Quincy Automobile Company sold the Pope-Toledo, White steam car, Dumont, Cadillac and Oldsmobile.  J.W. Cassidy was manager of the company.  It was located at 120 South Fourth.  It later moved to 410-412 Vermont.


            The H.M. Sheer Company at 117-119 Hampshire sold Elmore, Model 9 for $850.00.  In addition, autos were sold and serviced by the J. and W. Kurz Garage at 235-241 North Seventh and Samuel Massie and Sons Garage, 219 North Fourth.  In 1906 Albert E. Plank, who later joined with Charles Johnston, was manager of the Quincy Auto Company at 306 York.


            George H. Stahl, 300 South 18th, brought the first steam-driven auto to Quincy.  In 1905 Milton K. Weems, president of the Weems Laundry, living at 1682 Hampshire, purchased a new Stevens-Duryea, a big improvement over the White steamer.  However, a person entered the car from the rear through what resembled a trap door.  This model looked like something a horse would pull!


            It had twenty-eight-inch artillery wheels with three0inch tires.  The frame was of a heavy bicycle tubing, the fenders of top grain leather, and at night it used kerosene carriage lights.  In case of rain, there was a large tarpaulin with two holes in it through which the driver and his passengers could put their heads.  The car sold fir $1300.00 and was manufactured in Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts.


            The same year Weems purchased his Stevens-Duryea, a trip from Chicago to St. Paul was mapped out, along the lines of a “contest,” by the Chicago Automobile Pioneers.  Weems decided to make the trip.  Actually it was a contest of endurance, for both man and machine.  With Weems were Mrs. Weems, Mrs. Ben Bartlett and Dr. Thomas Gardner.  Another Quincy car entered the contest.  It was owned by Henry Fosgate, manager of the Hotel Newcomb.


            Weems completed the trip and had the distinction of having the only car wit hlady passengers.  Several hundred made the start but only a few reached St. Paul.  The Weems car finished ninth.


            Cars were stretched all the way, in ditches, some more in the mud, and others broken down with mechanical trouble.  The trip started on a Friday and ended on the following Thursday.  Weems and his party were so fatigued by the trip that they returned to Quincy by train and shipped the car back by steamboat.  The manufacturers of the car were so pleased at its performance that they asked Weems to ship the engine back to the factory so they could replace it with a new one.


            In this year cars selling for less than $2,000.00 included Ford Models N, R, and S, Cadillac, Oldsmobile standard runabout ($650.00).  Maxwell, Elmore, Buick, Cartercar, Overland, Baker electric, Stevens-Duryea, Franklin and Chalmers.  In the $2,000.00 to $4,000.000 class were the Ford Model K, Cleveland, Imperial, Oldsmobile, Moon, Marmon, Packard and Rainier.  In the $4,000.00 to $7,500.00 class were the Pierce-Arrow, Stanley Steamer, Hupmobile and Locomobile (?).


            Will Durant would soon merge Buick and Oldsmobile and founded General Motors with Oakland and Cadillac added a short time later.  Henry Ford and the Highland Park Plant would provide talk for the nation, and when he offered $5.00 a day to any employee over twenty-two years of age, the police would have to hold the crowds back from his door.  The cry “Get a horse” would soon be a thing of the past.


Transcribed by Mindy for Genealogy Trails. All Rights Reserved 2001-2004!