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First Automobile Owned and Driven by Daytonian


This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News on June 17, 1910
The First Automobile Owned and Driven by Daytonian
      It was in the winter of 1899 and 1900 that I brought the first automobile to Dayton.  About that time several individuals here were experimenting in the construction of automobiles in a crude and small way, without attaining any practical results.
     This was the day of wire, or bicycle wheels, and single tube tires with the engine machinery mounted directly on the frame, without any spring suspension, although my first machine had wooden wheels.  This machine was manufactured by the Haynes, Apperson company of Kokomo, Ind., the first successful pioneers in the field in this country.  Haynes and Apperson are still in the business, but in separate enterprises.
     This machine was known as “Doctor’s Phaeton,” with a double opposed gas engine under the body.  Because of the lack of spring suspension the engine and machinery were subjected to constant jolting and vibration of such an extent that after every short trip it was necessary to tighten up every nut and bolt on the machine.  While the body was spring suspended, it was very uncomfortable, nevertheless.
     Within a short time after this machine came to Dayton, other manufacturers went into the business and produced a great number of single cylinder machines with the engine and body both spring suspended, improved their product very rapidly and made great strides, as everyone knows, in the perfecting of their product.
     The clincher double tube tire rapidly displaced the single tube; two cylinder opposed balanced engines displaced the single cylinder unbalanced engine; wood wheels took the place of wire wheels, and the four cylinder engine in front, where it is more accessible and distributes the weight more evenly has displaced all other types of propelling engines.
     In the early days a trip as far as Cincinnati was considered a marvelous feat, while today, we drive to Cincinnati for breakfast, or to Toledo for dinner and think nothing about the wonderful strides made within the last ten years in this industry.
     When I brought the first machine to Dayton there were no garages and no one familiar with the care or upkeep of an automobile, or its tires.  We simply had to learn it ourselves, and do it.  There was no one to tell you how to keep the water from freezing in the winter time, nor anyone to answer any one of the dozens of questions which have long since been answered and solved for the automobilist.  The pleasure of being towed in by the “hay motor” was the rule rather than the exception, whenever a journey of any length was undertaken.
     While many users today believe that many farmers, and others, do not believe that the motorists have any rights upon the roads which should be respected, the early users not only encountered this opinion, but also the audible expression thereof, together with threatened suits to enjoin them from using the road and suit for damages because of his frightening horses, as well, as pedestrians on the road, who sometimes climbed fences and took to the woods on the approach of these “devil wagons,” afterwards known as “benzine buggies.”
     Whenever a stop was made on the street or road for repairs, or adjustment, which was frequent, the automobilist was immediately surrounded by a dense and curious throng, so dense that it shut out the light from the work he had undertaken.  Such questions as, “Mister, what is the matter?”  “Does it run by electricity?”  “Do you burn soft coal?”  “How fast will it run,” etc., etc., were hurled at him in such rapid succession that he frequently lost his patience.
     Such things as “speed regulations” were unnecessary in those days and the motorist who had a machine which at its maximum speed would run at the speed limit, as fixed in the cities today, on the level considered himself the possessor of a wonderful machine.
     The novelty has now worn off; automobiles are an every-day necessity and utility, and, like electric street cars, have come to stay.
     Greater strides have been made in the perfection of the automobile and the gasoline engine in the last ten years than in any other line of human endeavor.  The development of the gasoline engine by the automobile manufacturer has made possible the flying machine, the development of which may possibly eclipse the rapid development of the automobile.
     After 10 years of manufacture, contrary to the predictions of many, the price of good machines has not come down, although better machines can be had for the same money, and the supply is far beneath the demand, and a greater number of machines will be manufactured during the present year than in the five years preceding, and possibly more than have ever been manufactured up to this time in the United States.
     Within a year or two after the first machine came to Dayton, ten or a dozen other machines were acquired, and the pioneers in this sport organized an automobile club at Kiser’s store, on North Main street, which at that time had secured the agency for a steam machine which was very popular until the perfection of the gasoline engine gradually displaced most of the steamers.  A new automobile club has since been organized with a charter membership of nearly 200, which represents only a small fraction of the actual number of machines in Dayton at this time.  The fact that there are more machines in Dayton today that there were in the entire United States much less than ten years ago, is only one of the many evidences of the rapid development of this means of locomotion, and its growing popularity.
     In the ten years of my automobile experience I have driven about 100,000 miles, and have never had a serious accident or mishap to mar the pleasure derived therefrom, a record of which I am duly proud.