Minnetrista Blogs

Horseless Vehicles Part Two

As horseless vehicles became popular in the early 1900’s many carriage manufacturers simply switched from horse-drawn conveyances to engine power, keeping the same chassis and body designs.  Often small shops used these components to design their own versions of the horseless carriage.  This resulted in many one-of-a-kind vehicles that were modified multiple times as the design problems were worked out.

The basic carriage body and seats often used in early motorized vehicles. www.hansenwheel.com

Sometimes we are lucky enough to come across rare photographs of these early cars.  In this image, Helen and Rona Rutherford are posed in an early electric car in McCullough Park.  The vehicle features the carriage body, seats, and folding, or cabriolet, top with the battery box in the front.

Minnetrista Heritage Collection, Photo 578

This is a photo of the Brooker family, ca. 1903.  They are riding in what appears to be an electric car that also features a carriage style body.

Minnetrista Heritage Collection, Photo 5956

Here we see Charles E. Brandon and family in two very early horseless carriages.  You can definitely see the carriage body and seats of the horse-drawn conveyance used for both of these vehicles.

Brandon family
Minnetrista Heritage Collection, Photos 2340 and 2342

Pictured in a previous blog https://minnetrista.net/blog/2020/04/16/local-history/bicycling/ where he is posed with his bicycle, Charles Brandon led a rather interesting life.  Born in 1870 in Delaware County to George W. and Emoline Brandon, he married Agnes Myers and they had six children.  He was a school teacher and principal for 27 years in the Muncie City Schools serving as principal at Whittier, Congerville, and Longfellow.  Brandon was also a carpenter and after leaving education became a well-known local contractor.  In 1925 he was awarded the contract to build the new Eugene Field School in District 10 in Center Township at the cost of $23,400.

He and his family lived on a farm on Wheeling Pike at the northern edge of Center Township.  A unique feature of the property was the barn with its stained glass windows.  In a 1957 Dick Greene column, he writes that in 1929 Brandon obtained several windows from the High Street Methodist Church when it was torn down.  He installed two in the barn and stored the rest.

Interest in cars must have run in the family.  Here we see his son Lawrence, who took over his father’s construction business, posed with an early gasoline powered Ford racecar.

Minnetrista Heritage Collection, Photo 2343

If your interested has been piqued, check out one of the first magazines about automobiles, Horseless Age, available in digital format on several websites.  This covers both gasoline engines and electric power as well as other transportation innovations that were happening.  It was an exciting time and it is fascinating to look at these photographs and see how ideas were taking shape to make transportation more convenient for everyone.