This Day in Tech History

On This Day . . .

Auto vs Bike = Ouch!

motorcycle_accident_compensation_clip_artMay 30, 1896:  First Automobile Accident

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the first recorded automobile accident involving two vehicles on U.S. public streets happened in New York City on May 30, 1896.

It was a gorgeous, bright, sunny day and there were thousands of New Yorkers riding their bikes.  In addition, Cosmopolitan magazine has sponsored a car race on the streets of New York!  As the cars were racing, Henry Wells lost control of his vehicle and ran into the vehicle operated by Evelyn Thomas.  Evelyn broke her leg. Henry was arrested and held pending the outcome of Evelyn’s condition.

Only known surviving 1896 Duryea

Only known surviving 1896 Duryea

Mr. Wells of Springfield, Massachusetts, was driving his brand new Duryea Motor Wagon – the first automobile to be made and sold commercially in the U.S. – when he collided with the bicycle ridden by Evelyn Thomas of New York City.  You can bet that even in 1896, a crowd gathered.  New Yorkers probably accused Henry of being from Jersey, but of course he was from Massachusetts.

As mentioned above, Ms. Thomas suffered a broken leg in the wreck and was taken to the hospital.  Henry Wells suffered embarrassment and spent the night in jail.

In 1897, just one year after the accident, the world’s first automobile insurance policy was issued in Dayton, Ohio.

Photo of Charles (left) and J.F. Duryea in the 1894 Duryea gasoline car

Photo of Charles (left) and J.F. Duryea in the 1894 Duryea gasoline car

While the Duryea name may be long gone, their creation inspired the horseless carriage era in the US.

Eventually, the Duryea Motor Wagon became the first motor vehicle to be advertised and mass-produced in the US.  As a result, it also became the first motor vehicle to do a lot of things.  It was the first auto to win the first auto race, and as stated, was also involved in the first car accident when Wells hit poor Evelyn in New York.

1894 Duryea horseless carriage, on display at Tallahassee Automobile Museum

1894 Duryea horseless carriage, on display at Tallahassee Automobile Museum

Among those inspired by the Duryea was Henry Ford, who called it a “masterpiece” and credited the brothers with starting the automotive industry.

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