Friday, November 23, 2018

THE FIRST TRANSCONTINENTAL AUTOMOBILE ROAD TRIP



In 1903, a man named Dr. Horatio Nelson Jackson became the first person to drive across the country, from coast to coast. Jackson was seated in a gentleman’s club when he overheard a discussion at another table about the impracticability of automobiles. He made a fifty dollar wager that he could make it across the country in an automobile in ninety days or less.

This may seem silly to us now, because people drive across the country all the time. But Jackson had three huge obstacles against him.


ONE: In 1903, there exited only 150 miles of paved roads in the entire United States, most of those in large cities. What roads there were in between cities were extremely primitive if they existed at all. There were no road signs, no road numbers, no road maps, and no gas stations. In the first decade of the 20th century, a driver had the option of bad roads or no roads at all.



TWO: In 1903, automobiles were still a novelty and most people didn’t trust them. With good reason. Automobiles were highly prone to breaking down. Out in the middle of nowhere with no roads, it wasn’t easy to order parts or find someone who could repair a broken part. People didn’t think automobiles would last, that they were a passing fad.



THREE: No one had ever driven an automobile that far, so people didn’t believe it could be done. Other endeavors to drive across the country in an automobile had been attempted in years prior to Jackson’s trip without success. Proof it couldn’t be done.

So four days after his encounter at the gentleman’s club, having bought an automobile and supplies, Dr. Jackson set out on his historic expedition. He, along with his chauffeur/mechanic, Sewall Crocker, traveled from San Francisco to New York City in a twenty-horsepower Winton automobile he named the Vermont. Along the way, Horatio bought a dog named Bud who enjoyed the trip immensely.



Dr. Jackson and Mr. Crocker left San Francisco on Saturday, May 23. Two other two-man teams left California in the following weeks of the same year. The trio spent more time waiting for parts and to repair the Winton than they did driving. Worn out tires, broken springs, stuck in deep, thick mud. They were even sent miles and miles the wrong way because someone wanted another person to see an automobile. It’s amazing they made any progress at all.

At one point, the Vermont had to be towed by a horse!

Even with all the calamity that befell them, Dr. Jackson’s team was the first to make it, arriving in New York on Sunday, July 26, at 4:30 in the morning, completing the first American cross-country road trip. The approximately 4,500-mile journey took sixty-three days, twelve hours, and thirty minutes.

Between purchasing an automobile, hiring a mechanic, numerous repairs and parts, along with other expenses, Dr. Jackson spent around $8,000 of his own money to make this trip. Though he won the bet, he never collected the $50.

Dr. Jackson’s trek had shown the possibility of the automobile and that it could do far more than people realized and that it was here to stay. He also began a tradition that people for generations to come would follow—The Road Trip.

Within a few years of Dr. Jackson’s trip, an organized movement began in the United States to improve the roads across the nation to accommodate this new fangled device—the automobile. Higher quality driving surfaces were needed as well as a structured system of roadways, updated maps, in general, better ways for people in cars to travel wherever they wished to go.
By 1913, the nation’s first transcontinental motor route, the Lincoln Highway, had been created coast to coast through the center of the country. And by 1915, an automobile had raced across it’s entire length in just fives days time. This never would have happened without adventurous people like Dr. Jackson to forge the open country side before roads existed.

In 1944, Jackson donated his his 1903 Winton, The Vermont, to the Smithsonian Institution.



If you’d like to learn more about Dr. Jackson’s trip, you can watch Ken Burns’s PBS documentary titled Horatio’s Drive.

Dr. Jackson’s story so inspired me that I had to write a story of women making this same sort of trip. You can read their adventures in my novella “ZOLA’S CROSS-COUNTRY ADVENTURE” in The MISSAdventure Brides Collection.

Happy Adventuring!



The MISSADVENTURE BRIDES Collection
Love Is One of Life’s Greatest Adventures
Seven daring damsels don’t let the norms of their eras hold them back. Along the way these women attract the attention of men who admire their bravery and determination, but will they let love grow out of the adventures?

Zola’s Cross-Country Adventure, a 1904 road-trip. Zola Calkin sets out on an adventure to be the first woman to drive across the country. Will the journalist tasked to report her presumed failure sabotage her efforts? Or will he steal her heart?


#ChristianRomance #HistoricalRomance #Romance

MARY DAVIS is a bestselling, award-winning novelist of over two dozen titles in both historical and contemporary themes. She has five titles releasing in 2018; "Holly & Ivy" in A Bouquet of Brides Collection in January, Courting Her Amish Heart in March, The Widow’s Plight in July, Courting Her Secret Heart September, & “Zola’s Cross-Country Adventure” in MISSAdventure Brides Collection in December. Coming in January 2019, Courting Her Prodigal Heart (Book 3 in the Prodigal Daughter's series). She is a member of ACFW and active in critique groups.

Mary lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband of over thirty-four years and two cats. She has three adult children and one incredibly adorable grandchild. Find her online at:
Newsletter Blog FB FBReadersGroup Pinterest Amazon GoodReads BookBub

2 comments:

  1. Interesting story. I recently visited a museum in Dixon Illinois that featured the Lincoln Highway. Two sisters were the first to drive cross country on motorcycles. They were arrested a few times for wearing men's clothes. I believe this was not to long after the Lincoln Highway was completed. They also participated in sports and were very active in the Women's Rights movement.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the interesting post!

    ReplyDelete