Wayback Snapshot: Cars in Battle Creek 115 Years Ago
The WBCK Morning Show Wayback Machine took us back to May 15, 1906, where civic leaders took citizens around town in automobile rides as a fundraiser for Young Women’s Christian Association. Local citizens paid for a drive “through the principal streets of the city” followed by a lawn party. The Morning Enquirer reported it, right next to the article about Claude Austin, “Commedy Juggler”, playing performing at the Bijou Theater. (yes, comedy with two “m’s”)
Cars were still a novelty to most citizens of Battle Creek. In 1901 first auto was purchased, and the next year, in 1902, an ordinance was passed that each driver must purchase a license. By 1905 cars had to have lamps, brakes, and an alarm bell and had to stay off sidewalks.
Those licensing and safety measures were certainly not a surprise. The newspaper was peppered with articles about accidents. Here is a couple from that week.
May 16, 1906, Miss Florence Paine, a young woman employed in the office of the National Cereal Co. was run down by an automobile driven by Mr. and Mrs. M.E. Brown at the corner of Main Street and Jefferson Avenue. Miss Paine was riding south on her bicycle when she was struck. Fortunately, no fractures were sustained and she will probably be able to resume her position within a day or so. Mrs. Brown, who was running the auto at the time did all in her power to stop the machine as soon as possible and sincerely regrets the accident.
May 17, 1906, A team of horses owned by C.L. Post, drawing a carriage driven by a coachman, in which were Mrs. Post and a lady friend, were run into by an automobile driven by Mrs. John Roberts, at the intersection of Main Street and Jefferson, with a result that the off horse received a badly sprained right foreleg. As soon as Mrs. Roberts and the coachman saw that a mix-up was liable to result, they did what they could to avert it, but without avail. For although the team had been reined back, the auto could not be brought under sufficient control.
There were many other instances of similar accidents, just that week. Not big news, but it was certainly a very different time in Battle Creek.
And what did these cars cost? A newspaper ad shows a pretty wide range, just for Oldsmobiles, which were made just north of Battle Creek in Lansing. You could buy an Oldsmobile Runabout for $550.00 or an Oldsmobile Palace Touring Car for $2,250.00. In today’s dollars, that would be $16,319.97 for the Runabout and $66,763.50 for the Touring Car. Prices are not a lot different, 115 years later!