1905: “Antique Cars of Pennsylvania”
They may look bulky, clunky and even awkward to a modern eye, but antique cars have their charm and occupy a prominent place in auto history of Pittsburgh. Car races dating to the beginning of the 20th century, antique car shows and powerful Pittsburgh capital holders able to afford the elite automobiles are part of Pittsburgh’s auto history.
The story of antique cars in Pittsburgh unfolded in parallel with developments in the automobile industry in the United States starting in 1895, when the first automobile patent was approved.
The antique era in auto history covered the period from 1895 to 1920.
The earliest photo of antique cars found in Post-Gazette’s library was published in 1905 by the Sun-Telegraph. It shows three of Pittsburgh’s progressive physicians lining up their cars during a Sunday afternoon drive near Freeport. The photo caption identifies them left to right: Dr. George A. Urling and family; Dr. John A. Hawkins and family; family and Frank D. Saupp, and Dr. H. W. Urling and family.
Before 1920, only the wealthy owned automobiles in America. According to the Horseless Carriage Club, “Ownership required a pioneering spirit, inventiveness and superior mechanical ability to keep these early automobiles functioning. These early automobiles were called horseless carriages as they were capable of transporting people and freight faster and longer distance without the need of a horse to pull them.”
“Unlike a horse, the automobile did not require feeding or veterinarians to maintain health when not in service, but like a horse they often got a lecture in a colorful language by the owner when they would not perform.”
Pittsburgh had its own Chapter of the Horseless Carriage Club of America. The Sun-Telegraph captured its president Gene Connelly (second photo on the right) at the helm of a 1915 Stanley Steamer Mountain Wagon. It was the first station wagon in America. The automobile hauled guests from railway stations to mountain resorts in the East.
The unique characters of antique automobiles continued charming wealthy Pennsylvanians years later. Cadillacs from 1910, Regals and 1909 Pierce Arrows took part in the Glidden Tour to Pennsylvania’s prestigious Bedford Springs resort in 1948 (third photo).
In 1951, the trend continued. The Sun-Telegraph photo from that year (fourth on the right) shows the 1910 Regal, one of the sportiest cars in the annual Glidden tour, piloted by James C. Sutton of Bristol, Pa., and Stanley Wilkinson, Philadelphia. According to the Sun-Telegraph, Sutton bought it in a junk yard for $75.
The American Automobile Association established the Glidden Tour in 1902. The tours took place yearly until 1913. The event was terminated because of the poorly developed road system in the U.S., recurrent problems with accidents and public complaints. Long before the Dakar rallies, these tours were usually tests of endurance for the participants: the roads were terrible, accidents were numerous, cars broke down all the time and drivers had to be prepared to repair their horseless carriages on the run. Residents of the communities were not very happy when the tours crisscrossed their land, damaging property and scaring horses. The Veteran Motor Car Club of American brought the Glidden Tours back in 1946.
— Mila Sanina