First Muncy men to register car ownership with county
WILLIAMSPORT – Beginning in 1903 and until 1906, and prior to vehicle registrations required at state level, counties were responsible for the paperwork. Among those few identified in Lycoming County were, H. R. and A. D. Worthington, listed as officials of the Muncy Bank Company, A. D Foucart, owner of a Muncy jewelry store and millinery shop, all former having Oldsmobiles; and at Hughesville, the Snowden Brothers, foundry owners purchases and 1903 Cadillac.
Owners, dealers and early automotive inventors in Lycoming County had been researched by Valarie and Earl Mowrey, who presented their findings to 76 attendees at the Thomas T. Taber Museum in Williamsport, Sunday, Aug 15.
The span of time the speakers followed were mostly between the 1890s to 1910, when inventors and companies raced to be among the first creators of motorized vehicles.
Mr. Mowrey referred to the time and events as to what was happening nationwide during the run-up and immediately following the turn of the twentieth century.
“In 1903, no planes were in the air, Henry Ford’s Model T would come five years later and there were no machines to supply standardized parts except those used by weapon makers in New England. Not even electricity was available until Edison brought it to Sunbury in 1900,” he said.
Sometimes referred to as horseless carriages, many inventors had experience in bicycle production or railroading. One of many mentioned was Frank Stutzman, who in 1899 relocated his bicycle, woodworking machine factory from Milton to Williamsport.
Stutzman was an example of one who had many useful ideas but lacked capitol investment. Considered ahead of the curve, many of his ideas were taken by others for which he never received credit.
The first motor-wagons were powered by gas, steam or electricity. The speed limit was set at four miles-per-hour, with operators advised to have a runner proceed them waving a flag while yelling, “A car is coming.” The most common accidents occurred when drivers swerved to avoid hitting dogs fascinated with the chase.
Unfortunate incidents occurred with the downside of steam run vehicles was to explode, or cranks on the gas fired variety recoiled, often breaking a person’s wrist.
Auto sales would increase due to popularity, so in 1907 the still existing E. Keeler Company entered car shows. They sent six vehicles to the New York Auto Show, and a lesser amount went on to be shown in Philadelphia and Chicago.
Power to climb uphill grades were lacking in early cars making those who could popular in this region. For two years, in 1907 and 1908, races sponsored by the Imperial Motor Car Company in the Valmont section of the city. The first year, 9,000 spectators watched the hill climb. More notoriety was achieved when history was made in Sullivan County where a steam driven car using rails as a roadway, climbed the mountain from Sonestown to Eagles Mere.
There was a lot of wealth in Williamsport as the city was still at the height of the lumber era, so much so, the E. Keeler Co had an inventory worth $100,000.
Another early company surviving the test of time is Lycoming Motors. In 1910 with 2,000 employees, the company sold 60,000 motors. Among the many buyers were International trucks, the Auburn and Duesenberg cars, and the Checker Cab Company. In 1929, Lycoming Motors began making airplane engines.
Mr. Mowrey’s fascination with vehicles took root when his father purchased a 1958 Chevrolet black convertible with a black top. It had a 348 cubic, 32 barrel carburetor engine. The one-year old car was purchased from Ward Gilbert of Gilbert Chevrolet in Montoursville. Gilbert’s wife didn’t like the car complaining riding in it blew her hair about. The sleek car was a big deal to young Mowrey who was about eight at the time. When Mowrey identified the replacement as a 1961 ‘ugly’ green Ford station wagon, the audience joined him in groans of disappointment.
For the sake of reminiscing, auto and truck dealership ads in the Muncy area were taken from early issues of The Luminary. It lists year, car make, dealer and location, and include: 1923, Ford, Sones Brothers, (no location); 1948, Ford cars and trucks, Murray Motor Co. 101 N. Main; 1948, Kaiser Frazer, Brelsford Motors, N. Main; 1951, Chrysler, Harvey F. Corson, west of Muncy; 1951, Chevrolet, Floyd & Ward Gilbert, Market & Water Sts, also Broad St., Montoursville; 1962, Rambler, L. J. Eakers’s Garage, 100 N. Main; 1962, Dodge, Stein’s Sales & Service, Main & New Sts.; Selling Dodge Brothers Motor Cars, H. J. Bartlow.