The advent of the automobile

The horse, as a machine, has his drawbacks. One is that he wears out too soon. Another is his general unreliability and his tendency to spavin and heaves when overworked. His fuel is comparatively expensive, and whether he is working or standing idle, it must be supplied to him.

So in this age of applied science our old equine favorite is passing away. The electric gong of the automobile has sounded his deathknell, and now, no matter how old fashioned cavaliers may struggle against the tide of current events, the horse, as a piece of machinery, is bound to go.

Although for some 5000 years, if history is right in the matter, he has been doing faithful duty to man, his venerable bones must at last be relegated to the dime museum and his fatted and degenerate descendants sent to the Teutonic chophouses. That he may still be seen ambling unapprehensively up and down the streets of our different American cities is quite true, but now that the automobile has passed out of the experimental stage of its existence and is firmly established in popular favor it is simply a matter of time till the merchant and the millionaire, the drayman and the doctor, will all “mote” about the face of this earth for business or pleasure, as the case may be.

The automobile is clean, economical and convenient. It never eats its head off. It never balks or shies into a ditch. It does not get distemper and have to be shot. It does not leave dirty streets behind it, and it can wriggle through a crowded thoroughfare quicker than an equine Stradivarius can flick off a fly with his tail.

So it is no wonder that we are approaching the reign of the automobile. The king is dead! Long live the king! The capricious equine already has an old fashioned and awkward and slothful and unbusinesslike look about him, and, though he may not pass absolutely away for the next few years, the time will certainly come when he will be forbidden on the carefully kept streets of our twentieth century cities, where only the gentle drone of the Watt motor and the hum of the electric victoria will be heard.

During the last year or two, great improvements have been made in the building of autocarriages, and the only problem now remaining with the manufacturer is the question of reducing the cost of construction. An automobile costs at present from $800 to $5000, while hydrocarbon and gasoline wagons sell from $600 to $2000. Some of the smaller popular self propelling traps are sold for as little as $700, though they have not yet been reduced to their most perfect mechanical form. They will, however, run 75 miles without a recharge, which consists of one gallon of gasoline. They will carry two passengers over this distance at a respectable rate of sped with that small amount of fuel.

The gasoline engine always emits a slightly disagreeable odor, however, and this will always be a point in its disfavor. Nor have its builders yet overcome its tendency to radiate heat, so that the more popular vehicle for a time at least will be the electric carriage.

These are so built that their storage batteries can be charged at any 110 volt direct current circuit, such as that ordinarily used for lighting purposes, but even an electric carriage will give out the same as the old horse if overtaxed. In places where the direct current is not available for recharging, by means of a simple apparatus the alternating current can be used, though it takes about three hours to restore or charge batteries that have been completely exhausted.

In time, it is highly probable, electric hydrants will be placed all about towns and cities and along country roads for the use of “motors.” These will presumably be a sort of quarter in the slot machines. The present cost for recharging a battery is not fixed, but ranges all the way from 40 cents to a couple of dollars, depending on locality and circumstances. The cost of a new battery, by the way, is about $300, so that the man who ill treats this sensitive piece of machinery will find it about as expensive to keep as an overdriven thoroughbred.


About this story

Source publication: The Saint Paul Globe

Source publication date: July 23, 1899

Filed under: 1890s, Cars & trucks, Drawings & illustrations, Newspapers

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