In 1902, the first automobile arrived in Seguin bringing a new era of transportation to town. It was an electric car owned by Walter Nolte. The first electric car had been developed in 1832 but it was not until the 1870s that the electric cars became practical. The new business was led by Studebaker who sold their electric cars from 1902 to 1912. Their car would hold the land speed record until 1900.

In 1897, Montgomery Ward, a mail order company, toured the country in electric cars, advertising their business. However, the normally low top speed and short range compared to the internal combustion engine vehicles led to the decline in their popularity and use.

The second car in Seguin was a Toledo Steamer owned by Henry F. Cook. The car was built by the American Bicycle Company in Toledo, Ohio, and quickly led the automobile industry. The company soon announced they were ceasing the production of bicycles and would devote their plant to stream-powered carriages. Their car was powered by a two-cylinder engine of 6 1/4 horsepower. Steering was done by a tiller and the cost was from $800 to $1600 ( $800 in 1905 was equal to $20,000 in 2018). In 1902, a gasoline car with an 18-horsepower, three-cylinder engine was produced, marking the end of the steamers.

A two-cylinder REO was also owned by Henry F. Cook. The REO company was founded by Ranson Olds in Lansing, Michigan, and produced vehicles from 1905 to 1975. Passenger busses were also produced by REO. The REO became the Diamond REO Truck Company in 1975. Ranson Olds also founded the Olds Motor Vehicle Company which later became part of General Motors.

In 1905, Walter Nolte bought a Knox Touring car which was produced in Portland, Maine, and Springfield, Massachusetts. The Knox was a five-passenger touring car and they were produced from 1900 to 1914. The Knox had a four-cylinder engine with 38 horsepower. They also built trucks and farm tractors until 1924.

Otto Troell purchased a large Maxwell from J. E. Abbott, the first auto dealer in Seguin who sold the Maxwell as well as farm equipment. The Maxwell was produced from 1904 to 1925. (This is the car that comedian Jack Benny drove). John Maxwell began his company in 1904 with Benjamin Briscoe who owned 97 percent of the Buick Motor Company.

Carl F. Blumberg opened the first repair garage in Seguin and was an agent for E. M. F. Automobiles. The E. M. F. car name was replaced by Studebaker. In 1909, E. M. F. produced 8,960 vehicles just behind the numbers produced by the Ford Motor Company, Buick and Maxwell with Cadillac fifth.

Other early car owners in Seguin were T.B. Miller and Ferdinand Klein who owned the  Overland cars. August Koepsel owned a Buick, Arthur Koepsel owned a Metz, Ben Buerger owned a De Tumbler, R. L. Wupperrmann owned a Rambler, and John Vivroux owned a Jackson. E. H. Boeckmann was the first Ford dealer.

Not all of the people were pleased with these new modes of transportation and tried to get the noisy vehicles banned because they scared the horses and children. A big problem in Seguin was where to obtain gasoline for the engines.

The first automobiles were delivered in crates by horse drawn wagons and had to be assembled by following written instructions. Lovett Motor Company, later the Lovett-Jamison Motor Company located at the corner of College and Austin Streets, had a track where vehicles were assembled after arrival in crates by train. The tracks are still in the assembly building.

The evolution of the automobile came quickly and by 1930 Seguin Chevrolet Motor Company sold the six-cylinder Chevrolet for $495 and Lovett Motor Company sold the Rocket Pontiac for $435 ($450 in 1930 was equal to $11,000 in 2018).

To be continued ...

Floyd McKee is a native of Seguin. He is a retired Air Force Colonel and eight of his ancestors were among the 33 Rangers that organized and developed Walnut Springs and Seguin.

(1) comment


Interesting article, Floyd, I'm looking forward to part two!

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