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article number 177
article date 10-25-2012
copyright 2012 by Author else SaltOfAmerica
Automobiling Replaces Bicycling For Touring, 1900
by M. M. Musselman

From the book, Get a Horse. Author’s book dedication: To my mother and father in memory of those days when a Marmon touring car was their pride and joy.

COLONEL ALBERT A. POPE, who’s Pope Manufacturing Company once employed more than three thousand men in the manufacture of bicycles, was a man with a magnificent growth of whiskers and a roving eye in search of a passing dollar. He also had the foresight to get into the automobile game at an early date and his numerous companies at one time made the most and the best automobiles in America. The Columbia, the Pope-Hartford, the Pope-Toledo, the Pope-Tribune, the Pope-Robinson and the Pope-Waverly were manufactured in Pope plants in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, Indiana and Ohio.

As early as 1880 Colonel Pope realized that the new sport of cycling and the success of his new bicycle factory depended on good roads, so he became the most ardent advocate of the well-paved street and the hard-surfaced highway in America.

He was available as a speaker for most any occasion, provided he could talk about America’s need for good roads. He wrote articles for such popular magazines as Munsey’s; his handsome features and words of wisdom appeared in such high-class journals as Harper’s and World’s Work; he headed various committees bent on improving America’s mud roads; and he spent large sums promoting bicycle and touring clubs.

In 1880, as part of his uphill campaign, he published The American Bicycler, a cycling book written by the editor of The Bicycling World, A Journal of Bicycling, Archery, and Other Polite Athletics. On the last page of the book Colonel Pope modestly advertised, “Having had two years’ experience in the manufacture of bicycles, and the benefit of all the best English machines to guide us, we now claim to make the best finished and most durable bicycle ever put upon the market in any country.”

Twenty years later Colonel Pope would be one of the leaders of American industry and a multi-millionaire.

The American Bicycler, printed in 1880, is pertinent to the development of the automobile only because its pages give the first hint of our country’s hectic, mobile future—of the time when, on a Sunday afternoon, along New York’s Bronx River Parkway, or Cook County’s Skokie Road, or Los Angeles’ Ventura Boulevard, it would seem that most of America was trying to get some place else, as fast as possible, while sitting down.

The title page of The American Bicycler described the little book as a “manual for the observer, the learner, and the expert.” It gave the history of cycling, described all the bicycles then available, instructed the beginner in the mysteries of mounting and dismounting, explained the laws and courtesies of the road and listed many useful cycling facts. But most important of all were the eighty-five touring routes described in the book.

Before the advent of the bicycle nobody went touring just for the pleasure of taking a ride. You might take a Sunday drive in a buggy with your best girl, but that was something inspired by the biological urge rather than lust for the open road.


With the coming of the bicycle, however, things changed, for a cyclist on a strange highway immediately envisioned adventure ahead. Doubtless there were a few lewd fellows who went pumping along a country lane seeking the ubiquitous farmer’s daughter, but the cyclists whom The American Bicycler had in mind were gentlemen of the highest order, interested only in a tussle with a stiff hill or the elements and not stray females.

There was no doubt that a bicycle was a remarkable vehicle of pleasure; grandfather will tell you that it was fun just to get on and ride. It gave him a feeling of power and exhilaration that he could get in no other way. And when safeties and tandems appeared it became an instrument of social importance. For it was then, for the first time, that America began dashing off in all directions at once, while sitting down.

And in New England, at least, one was likely to be guided in his dash by The American Bicycler. Its most popular Sunday trip probably was Route 1—Boston to Milton and Quincy—which was as follows:

“From the Common, by Boylston and Dartmouth Streets, mostly macadam, and Columbus Avenue, asphalt (1.25 m.), Chester Park (to the left), macadam (.6 m.), Albany Street, &c. (cobble-stone for short distance), Sweet Street, macadam (1.2 m.), then Boston and Columbia Streets (to right and on to Washington Street), macadam and gravel (2.75 m.), Washington Street (to left), down Codman Hill with care, good gravel roads (2 m.), to Milton Lower Mills; thence across the Neponset and up Milton Hill (pretty stiff, and rideable only by the experienced) and along Milton Avenue, good gravel roads (2.75 m.), to East Milton, and thence by main road, smooth gravel (2.25 m), to Quincy ( “Robertson House”); making in all a run of 11.8 miles, over varied and very good roads, and through fine scenery. The views from Mount Bowdoin and Milton Hills are charming.”

Thanks to the bicycle, by the time the touring car was introduced to America we were already a nation of tourists. This was evident in the touring booklets issued by the League of American Wheelmen, which described such long-distance jaunts as Philadelphia-to-Washington and Hartford-to-New York City. Only the hardiest of souls actually took such bike trips, but many dreamed of taking them and once they owned a touring car they grabbed their Wheelmen’s touring guide and headed for the open road and the adventure that was waiting over the distant horizon.


Colonel Pope’s efforts to improve the country’s roads had borne little fruit except in the environs of Boston, New York and other large cities. Despite that fact the intrepid purchasers of Columbias, Pope-Hartfords, Pope-Toledos and other cars were not in the least deterred. They formed automobile clubs along the lines of their bicycle clubs and made mass treks in the form of picnics and Sunday outings. On these club tours a repair car often followed in the wake of the motorists just in case somebody needed special mechanical aid. In the course of a fifty-mile trip it was seldom that any car went unscathed and sometimes the repair car itself would need assistance.

But your true enthusiast considered mudholes, sand, broken springs and blowouts part of the game. These touring hazards only made the adventure more of a lark.

Many motorists of those days experienced as much trouble with the language of motoring as with its discomforts. Sometime before 1900 the august French Academy had coined the word “automobile.” Although the editor of The Horseless Age felt that “motor carriage” was more elegant, most magazine editors accepted “automobile” without a struggle. Other French words also found favor with the journalists of the day. For a time anyone at the wheel of a car was a “chauffeur.” A woman driver was a “chauffeuse.” A runabout was often called a “voiturette.” But the word “garage” did not at once find favor. “Automobile stable” was preferred for quite some time. Public garages, which began to appear as early as 1902, were “automobile stations.”

Motor club bulletins and minutes spoke gravely of automobilism and automobiling. It was possible in those early days, at least in the public prints, to automobilize down Fifth Avenue.

New York Athletic Club Outing 1902.

But after the neophyte automobilist had enjoyed automobilism, for a month of two, with the other automobiliers of his club, he usually struck out on his own. The Sunday drive with mother and the children became almost routine in many homes.

Females of the early twentieth century still possessed a large measure of Victorian frailty. In the open cars of that period, with no windshields and with springs of doubtful flexibility, thirty-five miles, round trip, was about all that mother—and sister, too, for that matter—could endure. Women almost invariably returned from a Sunday afternoon drive devoid of hairpins and dignity.

No doctor in his right mind would allow an expectant mother to set foot in a touring car. It was considered foolhardy for the average female, even in the best of health, to take a trip of more than sixty miles. For she was likely to be left in a state of exhaustion and disrepair that would surely require professional care. And the same for the car, of course.

Consequently, a Sunday drive in the early 1900’s was seldom long, though often of considerable duration. If you lived in New York you might drive to Yonkers to visit Aunt Minnie, or to Cousin Hal’s at Rockville Center. But even drives of this distance were not to be taken lightly. In preparation, father was likely to spend Saturday afternoon repairing tubes and casings, tuning up the engine and polishing the car’s eighteen-coat, baked-enamel finish.

Later, after mother became somewhat inured to the hardships of automobilism, father might, at vacation-time, attempt an overnight trip as a means of reaching some destination in the Berkshires.

On both Sunday and overnight drives, motoring dress was essential. Father wore a linen duster, a linen cap and goggles. Mother wore a duster, goggles and a utilitarian hat tied in place with a veil.

Some women refused, on esthetic grounds, to wear goggles. When entering a dust cloud these fastidious females simply shut their eyes tight and held a perfumed handkerchief to their nostrils.

Any motoring trip usually necessitated the packing of a luncheon. Wicker touring hampers, which strapped to the side of the touring tonneau, could be purchased as additional equipment for any car. Also buffet chests with ice compartments and a set of dishes and flatwear for six, eight or a dozen.

Of course, one never started on a trip of any kind without tow ropes, tire-patching outfits, a kit of tools that was practically a traveling machine shop, and reserve cans of gas and oil.


Among the younger or devil-may-care set, in those days, were automobilists who were practically professionals at the game of touring. It was in their blood, like some tropical fever; they toured America with the intensity of big game hunters off on a safari in darkest Africa. One of these indomitable souls, writing in the Scientific American, in 1902, gave a vague idea of the perils of touring, in an article entitled, “A Practical Automobile Touring Outfit.” The tourist-author wrote:

* * *

“Quite naturally touring has become a favorite pastime with those who patronize automobiling not as a fad, but as a healthful, pleasurable sport—a class of automobilists, by the way, that is constantly increasing, not only abroad but also in this country. In spite of the wretched conditions of American roads, extended touring in the United States is not only possible but probably more fascinating because of the additional obstacles that are continually presenting themselves to be overcome. . . .

“There is really no such thing on the market as a practical automobile touring outfit. Nobody makes it; nobody sells it, and yet there is an unprecedented demand for it by experienced auto-tourists. . . . Everyone is familiar with the black leather clothing worn by most chauffeurs. For all-around use this is the proper and most practical clothing, and for long distance trips it is the only kind which has been found to be convenient and satisfactory.

“Such leather clothing is usually made from calfskin, but the very best grade obtainable is invariably taken from the hide of the kangaroo—the skin being more pliable, and on account of its rather oily substance it will shed rain a good deal easier than calfskin. The latest style leather clothing is lined, not with corduroy, but with a strong, thick flannel, especially manufactured for this use.


“The proper automobile cap, with an extra long face-mask and goggles combined, and a pair of ear-mitts, ought to keep any head comfortable during fast going on cold days. The hands are best protected by fleece-lined buckskin gauntlets with cuffs wide enough to take the sleeve and hold it in.

“As a rule, the novice chauffeur will do a great deal of thinking to make his initial tour a success, and generally he returns to his starting place—unless the railroad carries him—finding that he has been doing his most sagacious thinking on the wrong side of the problem. He thought of rain storms and took a mackintosh with him; he thought of a scorching sun and provided himself with a monster Panama hat; he thought of cold feet, and added a footbag of furs to his inventory. Now as a matter of fact, a mackintosh is a most irritating kind of garment when automobiling in a rainstorm. It has a tendency to fly up over the knees, interfere with the quick handling of levers, and is invariably stepped on or torn, on leaving the vehicle hurriedly.

“In place of the mackintosh, which only affords partial protection, get a seaman’s suit of oilskin clothes, which is sure to protect you completely under the most adverse weather and road conditions, while it is out of the way at all times.

“Instead of the fur bags or similar contrivances for keeping the feet warm during the cold season, it is advisable to dress the feet so comfortably that they will be able to retain their natural heat even in frosty weather. The men employed in the ice-harvesting business on the Great Lakes have solved this problem in a very thorough manner. Adopt their footwear and you need never bother with fur bags, soapstones and such encumbrances.

“Briefly described, this footwear consists of a coarse, heavy-soled rubber, laced boot, into which is slid a sort of thick felt stocking reaching to the knee. The leg is thrust into the felt stocking. This arrangement affords a rubber covering to fight off dampness, a felt shell to fight off the cold, and a trouser-leg and a pair of woolen stockings to retain the heat of the limb. Heavy woolen or flannel underwear under a sporting suit and a heavyweight sweater ought to give comfort, especially when a corduroy-lined leather coat is the outer garment.

“During the summer season, instead of the Panama, the Japanese palm-leaf sun-hat will be found more practicable, since it will not fly off during the swiftest pace. The regulation auto cap, of extra light stock, would be the ideal headgear, if such caps could be had with the sweatband constructed in the same manner as that of the English army sun helmet—the hatters have yet to dream of this. A khaki suit with trousers cut on the cavalry order, so as to permit of canvas gaiters or leather leggings on the legs, would be one of the most practical things for summer wear.

“Next in importance to practical clothing comes such luggage as the chauffeur may care to take along, either for his personal comfort or for camping by the roadside. The best of sportsmen in Europe are already beginning to patronize the ‘camping-out’ idea.

“To fit out an automobile for a long continuous tour, camping by the roadside, is equivalent to making the machine your nomadic home for the time being. There is nothing impracticable about it, for when a soldier is able to carry on his back his entire camp outfit in addition to his weapons, the smallest automobile on the market ought to carry everything needed to make its passengers comfortable in camp.

“Breakables should be avoided entirely. Things that may be duplicated in any country store should not be given space unless ‘unknown regions’ are to be invaded. Combustibles are to be discountenanced. A canvas tent on the military order with a folding center pole will house two people in good shape. . . .

“Before going to bed, be sure to lock the manipulating devices on your automobile so that no one may appropriate the carriage while you sleep. You might also place a good six-shooter under your pillow. You will sleep just as well, and it might come in handy.

“When you wake up in the morning, your breakfast is, or ought to be, in the basket you are carrying with you strapped to the stern body of the vehicle. A better auto basket than any of those retailing from fifty to two hundred dollars can easily be improvised for a small amount of money. A wicker basket of the size of a small steamer trunk will do. Have a water and dust-tight cover of rubber made to fit snugly with leather mounting on the corners. Arrange straps on the inside of the lid to hold several plates, forks, knives, cups, saucers, etc., together with the necessary cooking utensils for making meals readily and conveniently. All such utensils should be of aluminum.

“A moderate supply of spices and groceries may be packed in a wooden box so as not to be mixed up with the other contents. If the tour is through a hunting or fishing region, the chauffeurs ought to be able to supply their own ‘table’ by some skill with the rod and the gun. In fact, this would give a genuine zest to the entire undertaking, and afford the intrepid sportsman a solid feeling of having gone to the bottom of the matter.

“If the tour is through populated country districts, most of the camping is likely to be done in village inns, while the cooking, in such a case, would be entrusted to the innkeeper’s ‘chef.’ To make an automobile camping trip a success, you must choose an out-of-the-way route that will compel you to camp out and ‘do’ for yourself.

“Something that is almost always invariably overlooked in making up an outfit is a supply of drugs, medicines and plasters. Accidents are liable to happen in a hundred unthought-of ways and sometimes minor bruises and scars from slipping or falling become quite annoying from not being attended to promptly.

“A canvas folder with pockets for various-size bottles, boxes and rolls, containing drugs and medicines, would in the majority of cases be found to be of practical use.

“The personal effects of two passengers could easily be packed in two portmanteaus, as all that is needed, besides the clothes they are continually wearing, is changes of underwear and stockings, handkerchiefs, extra pair of shoes, and such little extra items as the taste of the chauffeur may fancy and the season of the year may require. The point should be to take along as little as possible and yet be comfortably fitted out.”

* * *


Motorists, in those days, who confined their driving only to city streets had trouble enough with bicycle policemen who arrested them for venturing into Central Park or charged them with reckless driving if they exceeded twelve miles an hour. But the touring motorist was beset by all manner of contradictory and cockeyed regulations imposed by different counties and states, and enforced by antagonistic constables and magistrates.

In Missouri, to name the worst offender against the tourists’ pursuit of happiness, each county charged a two dollar fee for operating a motor car within its boundaries, and St. Louis charged ten dollars. The red tape and the expense of traversing Missouri in an automobile made the state anathema to tourists, which was probably what its farmer legislators wanted.

Speed limits in most states were from eight to fifteen miles per hour and speed traps were numerous. Michigan was considered the finest touring state in the country because it recognized out-of-state licenses and permitted a speed of twenty-five miles per hour.

Roads were abominable everywhere except in proximity to large cities and in a few sections of New England. And the rural population preferred to keep them that way so that automobiles would stay away and not frighten their horses and livestock.


It was these conditions that drove nine of the largest automobile clubs, in 1902, to form the American Automobile Association, an organization dedicated to the cause of better motoring. The A.A.A. campaigned vigorously against unjust automobile legislation, and the petty racketeers who operated small-town speed traps. It promoted good roads and governed the most important races, hill-climbing events and endurance contests of early days.

But most important of all, it worked to make automobile touring more pleasant, by establishing official garages, hotels and inns where tourists could spend a comfortable night, and official routes between most every city and village in North America.

The approved routes of the A.A.A. were described in six thick volumes, known as The Official Automobile Blue Books. They consisted of Vol. 1, New York State and Canada; Vol. 2, New England and Eastern Canada; Vol. 3, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and the South; Vol. 4, The Middle West; Vol. 5, Mississippi River to Pacific Coast; Vol. 6, The Pacific Coast. (Price, $2.50 each.)

These books were an elaborate version of the brief cycling routes first seen in Colonel Pope’s The American Bicycler. Tourists of all kinds found them indispensable. Unless you wished to travel by the stars any trip into unknown country called for assistance from the A.A.A. official Blue Books. One of them was sure to contain maps as well as a detailed description of the proper route you should follow to reach your destination. With The Blue Book to guide you it was virtually impossible to get lost. Nevertheless you usually did.

Some families would get out their Blue Book a week or two in advance of any extensive tour and study its directions with pleasant anticipation as they formerly had studied the pamphlets advertising railroad excursion tours. If there was a choice of routes, each one would be examined for a maximum of macadam (broken stone roads) as well as for a plentiful supply of official garages and hotels. And, of course, there was always a last-minute check with the Auto Club to learn of any washed-out bridges or hazardous detours that might be encountered.

When finally ready to go, the person seated next to the driver was automatically custodian of The Blue Book. This usually turned out to be the driver’s spouse and hers was always a nerve-racking job. She had to keep one eye on the book, one eye peeled for the landmarks it described, and a third eye on the mileage as indicated by the odometer. Somewhere en route she was sure to relax for a moment to enjoy the scenery. That was always the very moment when she should not have; for, during that brief period, a red school house on the left or a white church on the right would flash by unnoticed and the family would soon be lost in a rural wilderness. When that happened it often took sheer genius, a large bump of direction and several hours to get back on the proper route.

For the benefit of those who have never taken a trip with the aid of The Blue Book, let us go for a little spin from Chicago to Ottawa, Illinois. We will take Route 22, via Aurora on good gravel all the way.

- 0.0 CHICAGO, Michigan & Jackson Blvds. Go west on Jackson Blvd. to entrance of
- 4.7 GARFIELD PARK; enter park and bear right across trolley at Madison St.
- 5.3 Turn sharp left past Robt. Burns’ Monument and refectory, going almost straight out of park onto Washington Blvd.
- 7.9 AUSTIN AVE., ‘ow concrete chapel on far right; turn left i block and then right on Madison St., picking up trolley.
- 10.0 DESPLAINES AVE.; turn left around saloon with branch trolley, crossing RR. and 3d rail.

(This was the most hazardous moment on route 22. In the space of a few yards the trolley, the RR., the 3d rail and the saloon all ganged up on the unsuspecting tourist. He had to have his wits about him to get safely past this intersection.)

- 10.3 FOREST PARK. Straight ahead between numerous cemeteries.
- 15.0 End of the road; jog left and immediately right.
- 17.4 End of road; turn left with poles, following good stone on winding road. Curve right and left around old mill
- 19.3. Jog left and right through 4-corners at Fullersburg 19.6.
- 20.0 Right-hand road, RR. just ahead; turn right.
- 20.6 HINSDALE, station on left.Hinsdale Auto Co., Chicago Ave. 6’ Washington St. Go ahead following poles across RR. 24.2; through Downers Grove 24.9. CAUTiON for sharp upgrade
- 28.8, continuing ahead with heavy poles. CAUTION for downgrade into
- 32.1 NAPERVILLE, iron water trough on left. Turn left across iron bridge.
- 32.2 Right-hand road just after crossing bridge; turn right, curving left and right around pond.
- 32.6 Fork; bear right, jog left and right, following good macadam to center of
- 40.8 AURORA

(At this point things get all bawled up. The trouble is— no macadam. The Blue Book fails to state that although the county road commissioners had promised that there would be good macadam by the time the book was printed, something went wrong and they decided to put the macadam off for another year or two. So, in searching for the good macadam, you even miss AURORA! But of course there is always a way to get back on the road to a big city. You just follow the poles. So you follow the poles for an hour or two and finally you never find AURORA 40.7 but you do get back on the road because you come to DANWAY 74.3.)

- 75.6 Fork, slate-colored barn on left; bear right with poles.
- 83.0 Just after crossing canal, turn right at blacksmith shop.
- 85.0 OTTAWA, Madison Sc LaSalle Sts. New Clifton Hotel, Madison & Columbus Sts. Ottawa Garage, Opposite Hotel. For city map, see page 144. For diverging routes, see index map, page 144.

Nothing to it. Only four hours out of Chicago and there you were in Ottawa, thanks to The Blue Book.

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