Early Automobiles – A Bit Of Trivia

Photo WG2 smallHi, Winnie Griggs here.  In case you haven’t heard yet, I have a new book out this month.  It’s book three of my Texas Grooms series and is titled A Family For Christmas. (And I’ll be doing a giveawy, read on to the end for details!)

One of the things I have to figure out when I start a new book is what occupations my characters will have.  Usually it comes to me pretty quick, because it is part of who my characters are.  That was the same way it happened with this book.  Problem was, the occupations my two characters ended up with were ones I had to do more-than-normal research on.  And there was no changing things.  Once a character tells you who they are, then that’s who they are.  Period.

My heroine Eve opened a candy store and tea shop.  The research I did for that was fun (and fattening!).  I discussed some of that research back when I was in the middle of it (in case you missed that post, here’s the link: CANDY STORE POST).

Today I want to discuss the hero, Chance.  Chance comes from a prestigious family that is not only wealthy but  prominent in politics and society.  Only he didn’t quite fit in and was the black sheep of the family.  He’s hiding some secrets, of course, but mostly he prefers to work with his hands rather than in an office.  It’s been a year and a half since he left Philadelpia for Texas and in that time he’s opened a repair shop for mechanical items such as sewing machines and washing machines.  He’s also got his hands on a motor carriage, a definite oddity for this town in this time period.

As part of my research on early automobiles I stumbled on quite a few trivia type tidbits of automotive history and I thought I’d share some of those with you all today.

  • Flat asphalt roads were originally conceived for cyclists, not motorists as most people assume
  • The first cars didn’t have steering wheels. Instead drivers steered with a lever or tiller.  (Sort of like today’s joystick on game consoles!)
  • The first automobile related death occurred in Britain in 1896.  A 44-year old mother of two stepped off a curb and was hit by a passing motor car. She died from head injuries.
  • The driver was only doing just 4mph. The coroner ruled it an accidental death, and stated  “I trust that this sort of nonsense will never happen again.”.
  • In 1898, the New York City Police Department used bicycles to pursue speeding motorists.
  • The first official speeding violation in the US to be cited was committed by a taxi driver in New York City in 1899.  The driver was going 12 mph in an 8mph zone (I have no idea how they knew this before radar??).  He was arrested (by a policeman on a bicycle) and sent to jail, but he did not actually receive a ticket.  The first paper ticket was actually issued to an Ohio man in 1904, who coincidentally was also traveling 12 mph.  The Ohio man did no jail time.
  • In 1916, 55 percent of the cars in the entire world were none other than Model T Fords.  That kind of market domination has never been achieved by any other company since.
  • Women were every bit as fascinated by automobiles as men.  By 1923, women had been given credit for inventing over 170 automobile related items.  An electric engine starter and a carburetor two of the items on that list.

A few other fun items:

  • Most car horns in American vehicles beep in the key of F
  • The Peanuts characters made their first animated appearance in a 1957 Ford Fairlane commercial
  • According to a survey, 90% of car owners admit to singing while behind the wheel.  Between you and me, I think the other 10% were lying.
  • Cars are the most recycled consumer item in the world.

So there you have it.  Did any of this info surprise you?  Do you have any personal experience with or knowledge of vintage cars?


And now for the giveaway.  In honor of this being release month, I’m giving away a copy of A Family For Christmas to one person who leaves a comment.

15 AFFC thumbnailAn Unexpected Gift 

Eve Pickering knows what it’s like to be judged for your past. So she’s not about to leave the orphaned boy she’s befriended alone in this unfamiliar Texas town. Since Chance Dawson’s offer of shelter is the only way to look after Leo, Eve is determined they’ll have a warm, welcoming home for the holidays.

Chance came from the big city to make it on his own despite a painful secret. But Eve’s strength is giving him a confidence he never expected—and a new direction for his dream. With a little Christmas blessing, he’ll dare to win her heart—and make their family one for a lifetime.




And here’s a bonus giveaway that I’m only listing here.  Based on the facts above, I made a boo-boo in one scene of my book.  The first person to catch it and contact me, before the end of the month, will win a special prize!



Website | + posts

Winnie Griggs is the author of Historical (and occasionally Contemporary) romances that focus on Small Towns, Big Hearts, Amazing Grace. She is also a list maker, a lover of dragonflies and holds an advanced degree in the art of procrastination.
Three of Winnie’s books have been nominated for the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award, and one of those nominations resulted in a win.
Winnie loves to hear from readers. You can connect with her on facebook at www.facebook.com/WinnieGriggs.Author or email her at winnie@winniegriggs.com.

36 thoughts on “Early Automobiles – A Bit Of Trivia”

  1. Winnie, for once, I’m going to be the first commenter! LOL What a great post. I’ve always thought this must have been a fascinating time in our country –I can’t imagine sharing the road with horses and other vehicles alike. My grandmother once told my mom, “I have lived in the most interesting time, ever. I’ve seen the world go from riding on horseback, to wagons and buggies, to cars and then flying. And finally, putting a man on the moon.” This looks like a wonderful story, and your cover is just beautiful.

  2. Hi Cheryl – another night owl I see 🙂
    Yes, our grandparents did see a lot of big changes in technology in their lifetimes – but we have too! And thanks for the kind words about my book – the LIH art department always does a nice job with the covers!

  3. Hi Winnie, fun post and your book sounds wonderful, as always. Love all this trivia. I knew most of it because of having to do the research for Waiting for Morning, but I didn’t know about the horn beeping in the key of F. That caught my eye because I just read that toilets flush in Eb.

    These things are good to know.

  4. I just found this website thanks to a link from Karen Witemeyer’s website and it looks right up my alley! 🙂
    Winnie, I read your post, in part because it was the first one I saw on the site, lol.. but also because I had recently read your book Handpicked Husband. (yes, I know I’m behind on my L.I. Historical reading!) It was great fun and I’ve added your new book to my Christmas wish list.
    I’m impressed with all the research historical authors have to do in order to provide us with books that we love to relax with. Thanks!

  5. I can remember the days of my dad underneath the hood (or chassis) of a car in our driveway. It was helpful to have a father who understood the mechanics of a car. It saved on repairs. Now cars are so complicated you can’t do much without expensive computers to diagnose problems. I’d imagine small repair shops (today’s businesses like Chance’s) probably have a hard time competing.
    Neat post, Winnie!

  6. Fun post! I agree, the 10% were lying. 😉 I love it that women came up with that many vehicle related additions.

  7. Winnie I read once that by the time the Model T rolled off the assembly line over 100,000 patents had been issued for the car. It was a case of invention after invention going to improve each aspect of it from engine to body to the comfort of the ride.
    And it was always a race to see who could come up with the next new improvement because there was so much money to be made if you could make a better carburetor or starter or brake.

  8. Very interesting! I own cylinder record player and two of my favorite records are The Little Ole Ford Rattled
    Right Along and Get Out And Get Under. Both are about old cars!

  9. This weekend was our hometown fall fest and they had an old car show. From afar off, I saw my very first car, bought used and loved until it started leaking oil a lot ~ a 1956 Ford Fairlane. My husband found a Model-T and told me, “Can you imagine 12 of us in that car?” Mom and Dad and ten children. Kathleen ~ Lane Hill House

  10. Hi Winnie, awesome post. I think just about every one of your facts surprised me LOL. I like that women invented so many car items. My uncle is a car nut. He has had several Model T’s and A’s over the years.

    As for people singing, I confess to inventing/reciting my characters’ dialogues when I’m stopped in traffic. Sheesh. At least with today’s hands-free laws here in California, most people (I hope!) think i’m having a conversation on speakerphone.

    I enjoyed every word today…and best of luck with another terrific book. After I contracted my first book, the first book I bought was your Something More. I’ve been a fan ever since. xoxo

  11. Margaret – LOL about the key toilets flush in – I wonder who it is who figures all this out???

    Hi Crystal – glad you found us here – welcome and thanks for posting. And research can be really fun – it’s part of why I love writing historicals!

  12. Hello Jane – true, I don’ know of very many shade tree mechanics any more.

    Susan – I KNOW! How can anyone NOT sing when they’re listening to the car radio – especially when they’re alone 🙂

  13. Hi, Winnie! Thank you for sharing another fun, informative post. It is amazing to think about all the changes that occur over a lifetime! Two of the things I found especially fascinating were that women invented so many automobile related items and most American car horns beep in the key of F. I had no idea!

    Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy of A FAMILY FOR CHRISTMAS! I am keeping my fingers crossed!

  14. Lane Hill House most sewing machines nowadays when stitches are skipped it is the result of the needle-it is not inserted as far up as possible; it is inserted backwards or not tight enough. Try adjusting the needle. Remember- the flat side of the needle needs to be inserted opposite the last thread guide.
    I believe i read where it was a woman who invented the windshield wiper. When first installed they were only placed on the passenger side since that is where the women sat. I wonder when a woman first drove the car? Men probably thought they were not able to do such a “manly” operation.

  15. Kathleen – I have an old singer myself, the treadle kind. It is one of the few things I have from my grandmother and I treasure it. And LOL on fitting 12 in a car!

    Tanya – reciting dialog, I love it! And thanks so much for your kind words on Something More. It’s one of my personal faves from those early years of my writing. I have the rights back to it now – I may have to get it put up electronically.

  16. Thanks for some interesting facts! I did not know about the Peanuts characters in a commercial for a car… singing… yep I do that, lol!

  17. What an array of early car facts.. I do remember when each car had 2 keys!! And you didn’t need a computer hook-up to fix your vehicle!

  18. Colleen – I was surprised by the note on the Peanuts characters as well – they’ve come a long way since then!

    CateS – Oh I’d forgotten all about that – yes indeed 2 keys, one for the door locks and one for the ignition!

  19. What a wonderful post! I love coming here because I ALWAYS learn something new… and the cover of your book is magical. I would love to be entered to win a copy.

    Cindy W.

    countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

  20. Winnie, I love this post! It is so very interesting and I sure didn’t know that car horns were in the key of F. I will now think about that every time I hear a horn. Thank you for the great job you do and thank you for the opportunity to win A Family For Christmas. Sure keeping my fingers crossed!

  21. Thank you for the interesting post. I was surprised I already knew so many of them. Interesting that bikes got the smooth ride consideration first. I find it interesting that women contributed so much to the automobile. As you said, the were “credited” with them. I bet there were many they developed but were not credited for.

    Seeing vintage cars at shows and museums is about as close as I have gotten to them. I would love to own a really old one. We have a 1972 Land Rover (think Hatari, fun movie). Because of its age, it is considered an antique. My husband is working on it now to make it good as new. It is a fun car to drive, but you need muscles. No power steering and stiff springs. It just has lots of personality.

  22. Patricia – LOL on a 72 model being considered an antique – that makes me feel really old! My first car was a 66 Plymouth and while it wasn’t new, it certainly wasn’t very old!

  23. Oh my goodness gracious! How I do laugh when I visit this site. Most times it is very late night and wee hours of mornings, so no wonder I have trouble falling asleep And, tho living 78 years, learn so much history., that I didn’t know. So funny about knowing the key horns and especially toilets sound in, someone must have had a lot of spare time. LOL I remember seeing Model T’s and A’s when I was small. And, there were so many pretty cars built in the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and even 7’s. Built better too. Lasted many years. Very interesting ones in Antique car Shows. And, I figured why the women started telling the men how to drive was because the men didn’t have windshield wipers, so the women had to direct their driving. LOL I would so love to have copies of all of these historical posts that I have read on all of the pages. That’s a good idea. Why don’t all of you girls,print up your many posts and put them all in a book It is what, and Anthology? I know it would be a great hit. I would be forced to be one of your first purchasers. Please think about it.
    But we need it in Print. Maxie mac262(at)me(dot)com

  24. Thanks for the amazing information! My son and I are both history buffs and being able to share your facts with him helped me spend some one on one with him. My son is a teenager so any time I can spend with him I am grateful for. Thank you!

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