Friday, October 2, 2009

City Lights and the Locomobile

Last weekend I gave a presentation about Locomobile at the City Lights Gallery for the Antique Car Show. It went so well that I panicked I wouldn't have enough books the next day at the Trumbull Library. Luckily, Trumbull was ahead of the game, and had their own books purchased.

The picture below is actually of a "Trumbull" car, so maybe that means something.

In 1899 the Locomobile began as a steam-powered car. With inventor and electric car manufacturer Andrew Riker’s development of a new gasoline-powered engine for the company, Locomobile was soon one of the most popular cars in the world. The “Number 16” car pictured below won the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup, clocking in at an astonishing 64.38 mph. Locomobile was called the “best built car in America.”

The Bridgeport, CT factory stood on the west side of the harbor, where oil drums stand today. As pictured in the postcard to the right, the factory lay in sight of the famous Seaside Park, and Locomobile cars were often taken for fast drives on gravel pathways that had been designed for stately horse drawn carriages.

The Locomobile had the distinction of being the first car not designed to look like a ‘horse and buggy.’ Andrew Carnegie and Charlie Chaplin took pride in owning one. During World War I, the company sold the Riker Truck to the British army, contributing more vehicles to the war than any other American company.

The brand became a watchword for quality automobiles, catering toward a luxury market. Tiffany and Company even supplied the cars’ silver fittings. However, with the increasing use of autos by the general populace, and the cheap, accessible cars now produced by Ford Motor Company and GM, Locomobile began to lose importance and customers. The Great Depression sounded the final death knell for this fabled Bridgeport car company.

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