Hawaii’s First Automobiles
On October 8, 1899, people in Hawaii saw something new: a black “horseless” car. People watched Henry P. Baldwin and Edward D. Tenney drive around town and heard an unfamiliar sound: the car engine’s humming, so unlike the horses’ neighs.
The Hawaiian Gazette describes Tenney’s motorized trip: “During the trip from his residence to King street and out along Punahou street the vehicle was tried at three different rates of speed, first at four miles, then at eight, and on Punahou street at fourteen miles an hour. It worked most smoothly and easily at all time, was well under control, and, a most important point, it appeared to excite no undue attention from horses, though it was amusing at times to note their drivers’ preparations for the expected calamity.”
“Very few horses have attempted thus far to step on it. This morning a Chinese steed reared away from the mysterious roadster, probably the first time he had taken so much exercise in 27 years, but did no damage. Other horses eyed the intruder suspiciously, but seemed to size it up as one of the accidents of this ‘transition’ period in Hawaii’s political history.”
The newspapers noted the automobile’s advantages. The Hawaiian Star notes that anyone could operate an automobile, and that the automobile was noiseless, could go up to any speed, and could stop “quicker than a horse and started as easily as an electric car.” The Independent notes the automobile’s vehicle ran “smoother than any rubber tire hack,” and the driver does not have to yell “whoa! get up! – you!” The Independent also claims “profanity will be at a discount” when the car goes mainstream. Unfortunately that’s not the case today with road rage. The Hawaiian Gazette says the automobile is good for its safety, moves noiselessly, and has freedom from vibrations and odor.
The newspapers also foresaw the disadvantages. Austin’s Hawaiian Weekly notes, “When your motor breaks, out goes your lights, and you are subject not only to inconvenience, but arrest.” The Hawaiian Gazette points out that the automobile is heavy due to its storage batteries, is expensive, and can go only a limited distance, from 20 to 30 miles, before the next recharging.
The newspapers predicted the future popularity of automobiles. Austin’s Hawaiian Weekly notesthe word “automobile” may become a household word. The Hawaiian Star says, “in a few weeks they will be as common here as vegetable wagons.”
– Alice Kim
See the earliest automobile ads on the library’s Flickr.
The Hawaiian gazette, October 10, 1899, Page 4, Image 4
The Hawaiian star, October 09, 1899, Page FIVE, Image 5
http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82015415/1899-10-09/ed-1/seq-5/“Ka Lio ka Mea Aloha”
The Independent., October 09, 1899, Image 2
Austin’s Hawaiian weekly., October 14, 1899, Page 8, Image 8
The Honolulu republican., June 27, 1900, Page 8, Image 8
Evening bulletin., July 06, 1900, Page 5, Image 5
“New Automobile Hacks: What They Will Look Like and Do”
The Hawaiian star., July 28, 1900, Page FIVE, Image 5
“Automobile Shut Down: Waiting Until Better Service Can be Given”
The Hawaiian star., June 24, 1901, Page FIVE, Image 5