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The First Automobiles on the Eastern Shore by James Dawson

By 1899, the handwriting was on the wall, even the walls on the Eastern Shore: the horse and buggy was doomed, and the Age of the Automobile was upon us. While many were still laughing at the newfangled contraptions, the editor in Chestertown wrote, “[a]ll the arguments [are] in favor of the automobile and against the horse. It is ready without having to be hitched up. It can more easily be stored, no stable being necessary. No coachman is required. It is safer, can be guided with greater accuracy and turned in less space. It doesn’t have to be hitched when left standing.” [Kent News, Chestertown, Md. Aug, 12, 1899] That same year, the Democrat News in Cambridge weighed the cost of a horse against the cost of running a car for a year and decided that the car was cheaper. The automobile was coming, almost anyone with any vision agreed on that, but what people couldn’t agree on was what to call it. The new invention needed a name. Although automobile seemed to be an early favorite, a writer in the Baltimore Sun argued against that

word because it was an unacceptable hybrid of Greek and Latin roots that was too long and hard to pronounce. That writer preferred motum, which he thought was a good, short Latin word. Others came up with motor carriage, motor wagon, quadricycle, auto car, buggyaut, motor car and diamote. Early motorists also had to choose between gasoline-, steamor electrically-powered vehicles. Many preferred the tried and true steam power that had been successfully used in locomotives and boats for decades to the noisy, smelly and unpredictable new fuel: gasoline. But gasoline had the advantage in that it was always ready to go, while it might take half an hour or more to get up enough pressure to go for a spin in a steamer. Electric cars, taxis and delivery trucks were mostly confined to cities as they had a limited range and couldn’t stray far from charging stations. Electricity was also a newfangled invention and not widely available. The gasoline automobile was invented in Europe in the 1880s, but wasn’t built in the U.S. until the Duryea brothers from Springfield,


December 2014 ttimes web magazine  

Tidewater Times December 2014

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