Collins Genealogy, By Ethel (Buxton) McLean
Collector of Advertisements . . .
Remember the Browniekar?
By Charles Stabler, Jr.
Anyone interested in motor cars could probably name all the makes being produced today without much trouble. And it wouldn't be hard to name a few of the early models which have gone to automobile heaven where gas is free and there's never a red light.
But trying to call the roll of every automobile company ever started in this country would be a horse--oops--a car of another color. Don't try it--there have been at least 1,507 of them.
There is one man in Richmond who might be able to do it. He is Clyde Maddox, a retired accountant.
Maddox has one of the largest collections of early automobile advertisements in the country, close to 2,000 of them. they begin with A, B, C and go straight through the alphabet to the Zimmerman. Culled from such now-defunct periodicals as McClure's, Munsey's, Country Life in America, Century, Review of Reviews and others, these advertisements bring the chatter and noise of early automotive history to life.
Some of them were beauts. For instance, in 1903 one firm announced emphatically, "Any car will run downhill. Most any will run fairly on the level--but--the Elmore runs equally well uphill!" Another was billed, with more poetry than truth, as "The car with the doubt and jar left out."
In 1905 another company announced, without either poetry or truth but with a certain romantic air, that its car was "As Silent as the Stars." Another appealed to horse lovers by labeling its product as "A Goer and a Stayer."
In 1907 the women were appealed to by one firm's announcement that their car "Doesn't need nerve or education. We'll teach you how."
But in 1908 the Lindsley topped them all with the proud boast, "No swearing if you use this car."
Up to the time of Ford's Model T, which revolutionized the industry, cars were produced strictly for the very wealthy. Prices around $5,000 were not unusual. One of the highest priced cars was the Tincher, made in 1908 to sell for $6,500. Probably the cheapest car ever produced on a large scale was the Browniekar, two passengers, which sold for $175. This came out in 1909.
Credit for the first gasoline driven car in large production goes to Elwood Haynes. One of his 1893 cars is now in the Smithsonian Institute.
The history of the horseless carriage goes back many years further than 1893, however. Mr. Maddox says that the whole automobile situation was foretold around 600 B. C. when a prophet named Nahum said:
"The chariots shall rage in the streets, they shall jostle one against another in the broad ways; they shall seem like torches, they shall run like the lightnings."
Despite American pride in the automobile industry and our inventive ability, the history of the horseless carriage really begins in Germany, France and England.
As early as 1619, an English patent was issued for "drawing carts without horses," and in 1690 a steam engine actually moved a vehicle a short distance. In 1769, Joseph Cugnot built a steam tractor for French artillery use.
The first American patent on a self-propelled road vehicle was issued by Maryland to Oliver Evans in 1789.
Steam carriages underwent many improvements during the next 100 years. Two of them were in the United States by 1825, but automobile invention took its greatest step forward with the development of a gasoline internal combustion engine light enough to be used in cars. This was done in 1884, by Gottlieb Daimler, of Germany.
There are conflicting claims as to who owned the first automobile in Richmond. Maddox, who was here at the time, says he remembers B. A. Blenner driving a White Steamer early in 1900. Records indicate that Blenner purchased a Locomobile on Feb. 5, 1899, but this may have been loaned to him by W. C. Smith.
Other early Richmond drivers were Dr. Joseph White, Jonathan Bryan, Dr. Stuart Skelton, John Skleton Williams and Dr. R. E. Jones.
An issue of the Automobile for Oct. 3, 1903, owned by Maddox, lists the Richmond auto dealers as B A. Bliner (Blenner) and J. F. Herman.
This same issue lists the laws under which a Virginia driver was bound. Speed limit in Virginia, 15 mph. Speed limit at Staunton, 7 mph. Suffolk decided the whole thing was a dangerous fad and would allow no automobiles whatsoever within it's city limits.
Richmond was the site of an automobile factory for a short while in the early part of the century. One of Maddox's advertisements shows the Kline Kar, produced in Richmond. This factory later moved to York, Pa.
Maddox, the curator of all these early advertisements, drives a 1929 Chevrolet and has never owned a different make. Born in Richmond, he recently moved back here after 20 years in Afton.
His hobby started by chance when he went prowling one day through the attic of his wife's home in Afton, "the family dumping ground," and ran across over 300 old magazines. Many of the ads he found in those magazines he sold to the firms that had made them--if they hadn't gone out of business. This turned out to be so profitable that Mr. Maddox tracked down hundreds of other old magazines and began collecting their advertisements.
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