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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Automobiles Of Yesteryear Still Intrigue

Dallas Bogan on 29 July 2004
Dallas Bogan, Warren County, Ohio and Beyond (Bowie Maryland: Heritage Press, 1979) page 387
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

As we gaze at the sleek automobile of today, we tend to forget that they were once looked upon as a mere trial of man's ingenuity. From the single cylinder engine to the massive horsepower of today's racing cars, they are possibly the single-most accomplished mechanical invention of the times.
What has happened since the invention of the horseless carriage? Absolutely nothing, except the greatest change in societal patterns that has ever been witnessed by mankind. Say goodbye to the reliable old livery stables! Farewell to the sleek, well-fed horses! Hard times concerning the livelihood of the stable owners was now approaching.
How far have we really come? In the latter part of the Sixteenth Century, Leonardo Da Vinci was the first to publicly consider the idea of a self-propelled vehicle.
In April 1740, a Frenchman demonstrated in Paris a contraption in the form of a carriage propelled by a large clockwork engine.
It was suggested in 1760 that by mounting small windmills on a cart-like vehicle, the power could be converted to wind springs that would move the road wheels.
As we wander into the early part of this century, we see automobile agencies springing up in all parts of the State. Lebanon's first agency, and possibly one of the first in this part of the State, was the firm of Kilpatrick- French Company. Such a prosperous business they had, that while other new agencies were just being founded, theirs was flourishing, selling as many as four distinct brands of cars at one time.
I think it only fair to mention that this writer's great-great uncle, Richard Turner, built one of the first automobiles in the State. Turner, from Marysville, Ohio, built his automobile in 1900. He was a successful steel bridge-builder from Union County and he conceived the idea of building a gasoline engine driven vehicle that would more easily move heavy timber to bridge sites than a horse-drawn wagon.
Turner made all the mechanical parts for the motorcar himself, including the engine, which was a two-cylinder water-cooled design. It was cranked from the right side, just below the step-board. An employee made the wooden body. The transmission is planetary, similar to that used in the Model T Ford. The car, ultimately called the "Turner Car," was driven for about ten years, and is presently housed in the Marysville Museum.
In the beginning neither license plates nor title were required for the auto. It was much like selling or buying a cow or pig, or a farm implement. In 1907, an automobile division of the Secretary of State was established; it is now called the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. A license fee was set up through registrations, which called for a $3.00 fee for electric cars and a $5.00 fee for gasoline cars.
Roads of travel at this time were mere mud holes, causing many horseless carriages to come and go.
Some names of the early autos were the Queen, the Wayne, the Silent Northern, and the White Steamer.
In the beginning, a top speed of fifteen miles per hour was an astounding feat for the new contraption. One exception is given by the air-cooled Logan, which was clocked on the Warren County Fairgrounds racetrack at a dazzling speed of sixty miles per hour. Arrival of the two-cylinder machines was approaching in the year 1905 around Lebanon. Buicks were equipped with this larger engine as well as the Ford Model N, which preceded its more superior cousin, the Model T.
John Harding, of South Lebanon corn-canning fame, was one of the first owners of the automobile in the County. Sparking around the County in his new two-cylinder 1905 Queen, he created a sensation unequaled in that time. Harding's auto cost approximately $800 in 1905. As time passed, and auto production increased, the mechanical machine came down in price. In 1920, the Ford Roadster cost $550, or 20 cents per pound; in 1925 it cost $260. Similar decreases in prices were seen in the Ford Touring car. In 1920, it cost $575, and in 1925 it cost $290, etc.
I guess one might say that Henry Ford, and his turn around involving the workingman and the $5.00 workday in 1909, created more money in the pockets of the family man, which in turn allowed them to buy their own product.

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This page created 29 July 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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