Thursday, June 13, 2024

The Insolent Chauffeurs of America’s Early Automobile Era

EARLY IN THE MORNING ON September 21, 1909, a Brooklyn chauffeur driving at excessive velocity, a rogue policeman who turned into taking part in the joyride, and ten people in a farm wagon were significantly injured after the chauffeur, John McAnderies, crashed into the wagon. The “joy-driving” of Mr. McAnderies changed into blame for this collision.

This crash became no isolated case. At the start of the 20th century, the USA was regarded as full of reckless drivers inflicting chaos and damage to motors that belonged to their employers. But, as the Washington Times of October 11, 1908, claimed, while European chauffeurs occupied a function of well-known servitude, “groveling without a thought of riot,” this becomes now not the case inside the United States, where the American chauffeur “lords it over the automobile, the roadway, and the general population.”

In the early 1900s, vehicles, an exceedingly new invention, have been a “plaything for the wealthy,” says Dr. John Heitmann, a Professor of History at the University of Dayton. Those who were wealthy and privileged enough to own motors were often unsure of a way to function them. So, for both sensible and status reasons, a chauffeur was employed. The range of chauffeurs elevated swiftly, a lot so that around 1908, the general public of vehicle proprietors inside the country of New York had a chauffeur.

By 1911, there had been 450,000 automobiles within the United States and one hundred 000 chauffeurs. These drivers appeared to have extraordinary strength and management over their employers. Dr. Kevin Borg, a records professor at James Madison University, says that between 1903 and 1912, this case became regularly termed the “chauffeur hassle” with the aid of the chauffeur’s employers and vehicle garages’ managers.


Instances of joyriding chauffeurs started out acting inside the press throughout the US. One record from 1906 recounted how a “reckless chauffeur” had zoomed past a horse carriage, which nervous the horses into walking away and caused the carriage to overturn, injuring the occupants. However, the joyrider could not be apprehended as neither their identity nor their range plate changed.


Apprehending a joyriding chauffeur who was drink-riding and even walking human beings over was not usually a truthful procedure. Even if the auto had a registration range that would be spotted, it might not be accurate. One North Dakota newspaper article from 1909, which distinct all the mischievous antics chauffeurs used, stated that “to prevent detection he often hangs a fake range on the system” and “if he runs over everyone which he often does, it is his favorite trick to put on greater velocity and escape earlier than he can be arrested.” The identical article advised that chauffeurs had been inclined to acquire up “women of questionable individual and beverages which can be nonetheless extra questionable,” after which pass on to “journey up the town.”

Joyriding became the handiest part of the chauffeur hassle. In the early twentieth century, many vehicles were stored publicly in garages. The chauffeur regularly had large power over the cars and got admission to them. This supposed that the chauffeur in question might want to gain impact on the garage owner and regularly reap ten percent off regardless of the charges for the garage of the auto. If proprietors had been unwilling to pay, chauffeurs had methods of extorting the cash. This could consist of planned damage to the car by the chauffeurs, who then blamed the garage owner, leading to their business enterprise not wishing to do commercial enterprise with the storage.

Another way that chauffeurs should abuse their function concerned passing off the business enterprise’s vehicle as their own and getting cash ferrying different passengers. This illicit carrier turned into aided using the storage proprietors, who had been hesitant to question the chauffeur’s approximately their unauthorized use of the cars. Drivers should profit handsomely by hiring themselves as a “limousine service to downtown theatergoers.” Sometimes, it turned into best after the car crashed that the proprietor could come to be conscious the vehicle was even taken from the storage.

As mentioned by using the New York Tribune in November 1910, other infractions protected chauffeurs blaring noisy horns without thought for the ones around. Some horns were “locomotive whistles,” blasted at a volume “enough to wake the useless.” Rather bizarrely, chauffeurs have also been singled out inside the document for their “desertion of other halves.” Dr. John Heitmann also notes that there had been wider issues regarding the relationship between a chauffeur and the spouse of the auto proprietor.

Those who felt victimized by the chauffeurs have often been stirred into movement. In 1905, at a meeting of the Automobile Club of America in New York City, Mr. Shattuck cited that for chauffeurs, the “temptation to fraud has been the very top-notch.” One newspaper article from the Yorkville Inquirer of January 20, 1911, considered whether a trained sharpshooter might want to hit a joyriding chauffeur as a last result if they could not obtain to take down their license wide variety required for an arrest. The newspaper admitted that, most possibly, passersby could get hit.

Less drastic and more fun answers for dealing with chauffeurs’ reckless joyriding have been additionally proposed. A caricature within the Omaha Bee of September 7, 1909, suggested an automobile layout with the chauffeur’s phase positioned comically some distance in advance so that any collisions would endanger the motive force instead of the passenger. This, it changed into argued, would “discourage reckless riding.”

William J. McGoldrick
William J. McGoldrick
Passionate beer maven. Social media advocate. Hipster-friendly music scholar. Thinker. Garnered an industry award while merchandising cannibalism in Gainesville, FL. Have some experience importing human hair in Minneapolis, MN. Won several awards for consulting about race cars in the government sector. Crossed the country developing strategies for clip-on ties in Washington, DC. Spent a weekend implementing Virgin Mary figurines in West Palm Beach, FL. Had moderate success promoting Elvis Presley in Ocean City, NJ.

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