Wednesday, March 25, 2009

European's horseless carriages

Europeans invented the horseless carriages, but Americans embraced it. As early as 1896, J. Frank and Charles Duryea established the Duryea Motor Company in Peoria, Illinois, and sold the first dozen American-made cars. By 1900 American carmakers had sold about 8,000 vehicles, and by 1910, registrations had soared nearly to half million and were rising rapidly. Leading the adoption of automobiles were doctors and other professionals, but others quickly followed, putting cars into service for the purpose of business, politics, commuting, and recreation. By 1910 automobiles were already becoming necessities.

Not everyone embraced the new machines, however, and enthusiasts had to argue the automobile's superiority over the old "haymotors." Advocates claimed the cars were faster than horses, didn't tire, consumed less fuel, never ran away and were also cleaner. Some even reasoned that cars would eliminate traffic congestion, because an automobile only took up half the space of a horse and buggy!

This exhibition presents lovingly preserved vehicles from the 1900-1910 period, along with related material that illuminates how people experienced that complex, finicky, but most versatile machine, the horseless carriage. The cars themselves displayed great variety in cost, technical innovation, and performance capability. They ranged from a motorized buggy like the Columbus to the powerful, heavy (and costly) Packard.


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