The Age Of The Horseless Carriage

The following ad appeared in the San Francisco Call in 1896 – In 1896, they talk of steam power and electric power vehicles to replace the horse drawn carriages of the day, although the writer does ride is a gas powered vehicle. Gasoline engines were being made by 1896 but would not be the fuel of choice until the early 1900’s. It is hard to believe that gasoline was considered a useless by product of┬ápetroleum back then and was even used as a treatment for head lice. It is an entertaining read, however, there are a few words that are not used in today’s vocabulary (at least not in mine) but you get the idea. The paragraph titles are my own ­čśë

One Ride In A Horseless Carriage – The era of the horseless carriage is coming as sure as the era of good country roads. The champions of the horse may pooh pooh the idea and assert that pleasure- Joying man will never surrender the steed of flesh and blond to a mere piece of twentieth century mechanism; they may claim that there is a luck of enjoyment, and absence of thrill of the delightful sort, and no end of danger in riding on a machine run by electricity and gasoline, but they can only rank as special pleaders on one side of the controversy.

The steam car was once just as much of a curiosity, and was viewed with eyes as skeptical as the horseless carriage is to day. Not a hundred years has gone by since steam was first harnessed to the paddle-wheels of boats and the flywheels of trains, and yet steam is being replaced here and there by electricity and doubting Thomas’s are soon made firm believers in the beneficial results of new discoveries. It is hardly a dozen years ago since people declared that the electric streetcar would never be a success. Now it is in universal use.


Men in general didn’t think that Edison’s electric light would set the world of night afire, but it did, and it was not very long in doing it. A short time ago the telephone was a curious thing. Now everybody uses the telephone. And it will be the same old story with the horseless carriage. The subject of good roads is being agitated from one end of the State to the other. Down in Los Angeles County it is proposed to make the roads question a legal campaign issue, and other counties may follow the example. With the dawning of the day of good roads in the West will come the rising of the sun of the horseless carriage. Manufacturers will cut down the prices as the demand grows, and ultimately we shall be able to buy an electric-motor buggy for about the cost of an ordinary road horse.

“But how does it feel to ride in one of those electric carriages?” somebody is bound to ask. “Does the thing shake you up and deafen you with noises that keep your nerves on edge? Is it hard to steer? Don’t you have serious trouble turning corners? Aren’t you constantly in fear of colliding with some vehicle or other, or of getting upset by running into a chuck hole?”

One Man’s First Ride In A “Horseless Carriage” – All such questions may be speedily answered by the experience of a Call man who yesterday made a special trip in a horseless carriage for the very purpose of describing all the relative sensations. He was accompanied by J. M. Ough of the California Gas Engine Company, who is planning to build a number of horseless carriages. The vehicle in which the trip was made is the one belonging to Charley Fair, being the first of its kind west of the Rockies. The route taken was through the principal streets of Alameda and over country roads in the vicinity of Oakland. Comfortably sealed in the attractive looking carriage, a button under the seat is pressed, an electric spark ignites the gasoline, and the engine operates with a noise almost like that made by a railway locomotive in starting, but more subdued, of course, and with the exception of the buzzing sound of the electricity” The brake is then thrown off, and away starts the carriage at any rate of speed desired. When well under way the noise is hardly noticeable. It is remarkable with what smoothness the carriage travels. It speeds along at the rate of fifteen to twenty miles an hour, and no vehicle ever turned sharp corners more prettily than does this horse less carriage.

Just ahead of us is a country woman driving a horse which shows signs of fear. The woman is curious, and is paying more attention to the object of her wonderment than to the animal she is driving. The horseless carriage turns properly to the right. The woman somewhat nervously jerks the wrong line, and the horse moves toward the side on which the machine of mystery is speeding. But there is no collision. The horseless carriage is guided to the opposite side of the street in a twinkling and, had it been necessary, the brake could have been applied and the wheels brought to an almost immediate standstill. Horses haven’t got used to the horseless carriage yet, and they shy as it passes Almost invariably.

Tied to a stake along the roadside In the country back of the encinal was a horse which sprang up and sniffed as his modern enemy appeared, and as the thing of unseen power rolled by the horse jumped with such force as to break his rope, and then fled away supposedly filled with all the terror that pursued Tam o’ Shanter’s Meg. No wonder the horse gets maddened at this new invention. It appears that it was not enough to crowd him out of many of his old-accustomed places with the bike and the tandem, but the genius of man must even take the shafts out of the carriages, and then whirl over the land without the aid of any horse at all.

A Farmer’s First Siting Of Carriage – A farmer and his wife drive up to a fence on the roadside to let the machine go by. They are both staring at it with eyes that tell a tale of astonishment. Their mouths are wide open. One might imagine that farmer turning to his spouse and declaring, as the strange conveyance disappeared in the distance, “That’s the darnedest concern I ever set eyes on, Jerushy. I’d just like to get a squint at the insides of it. By gum, they’re getting things down fine as silk nowadays. Next thing some city cuss will come to visit our Sally in a flying machine. These are mighty fast days. Things that were impossible when we was young is just child’s-play now. I’m beginning to believe almost anything I hear. Gosh! how that infernal wagon does get over the ground ! Jerushy, if we had one of them carriages, we’d stock it with grub and go deuce knows where with it, just to show off. It’s great!”

Twenty miles an hour on a good, smooth road is a very rapid rate of speed. A horse may make a spurt for a moment that will put the horseless carriage in the rear; but the monster of electric power is tireless, and the horse soon succumbs to exhaustion. With the electric carriage you may ride all day and all night, and it is destined to be a most valuable thing in an emergency that requires quick travel over a long distance and where trains are not available.

Riding along the beautiful wide avenues of Alameda, the children are attracted by the horseless carriage. They run alongside of it, and a couple of barefoot boys strive to keep up with the big vehicle for a few yards. Some of the boys make bold to hang on behind, but the strong odor of gasoline cures them of such a notion. The little fellows laugh and shout as the odd contrivance rushes away from them. Near the beach a halt is made and an immense crowd gathers in short order. The questions with reference to the various parts of the horseless carriage come pouring in from all directions. One almost regrets that he hasn’t a bushel or two of pamphlets explanatory of everything for free distribution among the crowd. We toot a warning signal and escape from the thoroughly interested but too inquisitive throng.

An Old Time “Chick Magnet” At The Beach – Along the beach the horseless carriage is a drawing card. The rosy-cheeked, ruby-lipped, blue-eyed and golden-haired summer girl is there, and she waves her dainty lace parasol at the vehicle, whose occupants are getting, the full benefit of the fresh breezes on the wing as it were. The summer-girl would like nothing better than such a ride on a warm June day. The bathers in the water turn and gaze at the horseless carriage. It is such a curious affair to them that most of them laugh outright at first and then sober down to serious consideration. Undoubtedly, if all the comments that are made in regard to that carriage could be gathered and printed, they would make an amusing column.

The Coming Of The Horseless Carriage Is Inevitable – From the houses on the way people, young and old, run out and look after the horseless carriage. The occupants feel that they are envied the luxury of such a ride. It is a luxury, too. The traveling is so smooth, the carriage is so comfortable, the speed so brisk, the task of guiding so simple and easy, that a ride in a horseless carriage of the type owned by Charley Fair is delightful. There is practically no danger at all, and, despite the fact that this carriage has been operated on crowded streets, it has never been mixed up in any kind of an accident. An afternoon’s ride in a horseless carriage makes a person feel a longing to be the possessor of one. But as soon as the counties of California get together on the all-important subject of good roads, and as soon as our highways are as well graded and paved as they should be, just so soon shall we behold a multitude of horseless carriages in the West. Then the stab e-keepers will invest In them and the bicycle will have a strong holiday rival in these pleasant vehicles, of which at present there is only a sample or forerunner in the Golden State.


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