May 15, 1911: “Well I think Dad has ordered our machine.”
May 18, 1911: “Oh! I just simply feel like shouting. Dad has bought a machine. It is a big ‘Hudson Torpedo.’ It sure is a beauty. Just looks as if it could cut the wind.”
The automobile industry was just taking off in the United States. The first production of practical cars with gasoline powered internal combustion engines were built by Karl Benz in Germany in 1888. By the early 1900s mass production of automobiles had begun in the U.S. More and more of Jessie’s friends and acquaintances were buying cars. A few of her friends even had electric cars. “Joy-riding” became the thing to do. But it was not all fun and games. Flat tires and blow-outs were common. Headlights burnt out. No fuel gages in the car meant drivers often ran out of gas. Unpaved roads and no windows often meant a rough and dusty ride. Most states at this time did not require driver’s licenses and driving tests, so practically everyone was learning to drive on the road. Hilariously, Jessie writes on June 6, 1911, “… Went out in the machine right after supper. It was dandy riding. I do believe Dad just got by his special post without running into it [again].” Jessie’s father, F.S. Latham, ended up purchasing a Hudson Torpedo, but they also test-drove an EMF. Though I don’t think the Lathams test-drove an electric car, those autos were also competing with the gasoline powered machines in the early decades of the 20th century. Since they lacked the gasoline engine, they tended to look more like carriages, as you can see from the picture below.