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Early Automobiles in Sewickley

Signals, November 2015

As of August 12, 1905, there were 53 automobiles owned in the Sewickley Valley, representing twenty different makes. Thirty nine of these cars were “explosive motor,” driven by gasoline; three were steam cars, and there were eleven electrics. Already the steam cars were becoming unpopular, and although three were owned here, only one was in actual operation.

A pioneer automobilist of the Valley was Percy V. Stowe of Edgeworth, who purchased a De Dion & Bewton Motorette. It was a low-slung, one cylinder (horizontal) car with a small seat in front of the driver’s seat. Due to protests because of the noisiness of the machine, he disposed of it and bought a steamer. (See photo above.)

The original popular gasoline auto here was the Franklin, and in 1905 there were five of them, owned by William A. Way, George H. Singer, W. L. Scott, John E. Porter and John Duss, Jr. of Economy....

There were three Packard touring cars here in 1905, owned by Edward O’Neil, William McC. Grafton and William Scaife. All three were 4-cylinder, 22 hp. Model L types with blue bodies and yellow running gear....

One Winton car was represented, owned by Henry and James Todd of Beaver Street. It was a 20 hp. rear entrance touring car, equipped with a foot-operated accelerator, then an innovation.

There were six Oldsmobiles around town, owned by Charles F. Becker, Dr. R. W. Dickson, Joseph Warren, A. S. Altaffer, D. C. Anderson and Alexander Laughlin....

J. H. Richardson of Beaver Street had a Rambler side-entrance touring car built in Kenosha, Wis. Arthur Hartwell of Edgeworth had another about like it. Clarence Saxon owned a Premier, a 4-cylinder air cooled job made in Indianapolis, much like the Franklin.

The oldest car in point of service in the valley was a Northern runabout owned by D. C. Anderson of the Edgeworth Machine Company. Sam Young of Edgeworth had one something like it.

There were more Pope-Waverly electrics in the Valley than any one make, eleven in all. These were built by the Pope Motor Car Co. of Indianapolis and were owned by Richard C. Wrenshall, Jr., Dr. Dewitt B. Nettleton, Miss Marguerite Singer, Henry A. Davis, W. N. Ker, A. J. Armstrong, James Arrott, Mrs. F. M. Hutchinson, B. F. Jones, Jr., Dr. Kurray of Economy and James C. Chaplin. Samuel Adams had one on order. Tom Walker was running a Cadillac.... Other Cadillacs were owned by Leet Oliver and Royal L. Scoville. These were described as light touring cars. Joseph G. McClurg, Alexander Laughlin, Jr., Albert E. Arrott and Milton L. Baird of Glenfield owned Autocars built in Ardmore, Pa. Thomas Orr of Ambridge had an Orient buckboard, the smallest car in the Valley, made by the Waltham Mfg. Co., Waltham, Mass. It had a 4-hp engine mounted on the back. It was declared a good hill climber. John D. McCord drove a 30-hp. with four cylinders. Sam T. Anderson drove a Stearns, a high, square-looking machine with an extra seat in the back. It was made by the F. B. Stearns Co., Cleveland. Glen F. Braden was owner of one of the original steam cars here, but in 1905 he had an Apperson made in Kokomo, Ind., as did James E. Brown....

In the luxury class was the 24-hp. Pierce Great Arrow owned by C. F. Holdship, and another like it owned by James H. Childs. These cars were made by the George N. Pierce Co., Buffalo, N. Y. A Pierce Motorette was owned by J. W. Paul of Thorn Street.

Joseph T. Nevin was driving a 3-cylinder Thomas touring car with a limousine body, built by E. R. Thomas Motor Co., Buffalo. W. J. Prentice of Glen Osborne had the only steam car in actual operation here in 1905, a Prescott. Joseph Warren had a Locomobile runabout, the first automobile owned in Sewickley. Frank R. Dravo gave his steamer to George Little.

Thus it is disclosed that Joseph Warren is given credit as the owner of Sewickley’s first automobile. The one owned by Percy V. Stowe, which dates to about the same time, was not a gasoline car. His De Dion & Bewton Motorette was propelled by benzene or naphtha, and could be fired with absinthe in emergencies.

The images below were printed from newly discovered negatives, showing Sewickley around 1900 before the advent of the automobile. Notice how relatively empty the streets are. Very shortly, the streets would become crowded with “horseless carriages.” The images show: 1. A lady emerging from the Post Office at 503 Beaver Street, the location today of the Sewickley Hotel’s dining patio; 2. Looking towards Edgeworth down Beaver Street from Broad Street, S. H. Kennedy Dairy wagon visible at left, Sewickley Hardware on Green Street further down the block; 3. Broad Street looking towards Beaver Street, Murray Building on the near right, which burned and is the site today of Walcott Park, the 1st National Bank building on the right beyond, today Sherwin Williams Paints; 4. Broad Street at Beaver Street looking up towards Sewickley Cemetery, 1st National Bank building on right, the first hospital building was not constructed up the hill on the left until 1907; 5. Broad Street from Beaver Street, Methodist Church steeple on right; 6. Book shop probably at the corner of Little and Beaver Streets, today’s Maria.

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