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Part 1 of a three part installment by Flat Tire Jack, guest blogger.
Gallery 1 is a curious place. It is the archive of our earliest expressions of mechanized personal travel. The beginning of the twentieth century was marked by a seminal debate. Should the automobile replace the horse and carriage? If the auto was to be successful, it needed to be utilitarian and economical. Was that possible?
Let’s look at a few components of the decision to be made. There were few roads, no less paved surfaces for a car to use. The barn, horse and buggy were institutionalized in American life. It all seemed to work. But there was still a desire to move beyond the agrarian based transportation of the past and into an expression of the mechanized age of the future. Machines were being utilized in every endeavor of modern life to replace human and animal labor, why not transportation?
Inventiveness began to solve these issues with creative solutions. Large wagon like vehicles addressed the utility and compatibility issues. Look to the International Harvester high wheel motor buggy in Gallery 1. Large wheels set 57” apart fit existing wagon ruts and offered high ground clearance for unimproved trails. Haul hay and produce all week long and then drop in the accessory seat for the Saturday afternoon trip into town and the Sunday ride to church.
Early automobiles maintained the familiar appearance of the horse drawn buggy. And with the engine beneath the seat or under a hood, the view improved significantly. Study the vehicles near the entrance to Gallery 1 and note what they would look like if there was a horse in the picture. It is not a stretch of the imagination to picture the evolution from equine power to internal combustion thrust.
There was another significant drawback that needed to be addressed. The automobile was too expensive for the average household. Initially, Old Dobbin’s replacement in the transportation field was marketed to the well-heeled. $2,500 would get you a nice touring car such as the Pierce Arrow in Gallery 1, or your own home. In 1910, that was a tough call for most. Numerous articles in the trades were calling for a breakthrough – the $500 car. American ingenuity to the call again... Smaller and lighter automobiles began to be developed to address the staggering cost barrier. An innovative solution was the Metz which you can find a bit further in Gallery 1. Components were mail ordered as you could afford them. You could assemble your own gas buggy in the barn as parts were delivered over time. The Metz was your diminutive version of the more expensive four cylinder roadster.
Enter Alanson P. Brush with a better idea as we shall see in the next installment.