The Insolent Chauffeurs of America’s Early Automobile Era

EARLY IN THE MORNING ON September 21, 1909, a Brooklyn chauffeur driving at the high pace, a rogue policeman who changed into taking part in the joyride, and 10 human beings driving in a farm wagon had been seriously injured after the chauffeur, John McAnderies, crashed into the wagon. The “joy-using” of Mr. McAnderies changed into blame for this collision.

This crash changed into no remote case. In the start of the 20 th century, the USA appeared to be full of reckless drivers causing chaos and damage in motors that belonged to their employers. As the Washington Times of October 11, 1908, claimed, whilst European chauffeurs occupied a role of general servitude, “groveling without a thought of rebel,” this was now not the case inside the United States, wherein the American chauffeur “lords it over the automobile, the roadway, and the general population.”

In the early 1900s, motors, a quite new invention, had been a “plaything for the wealthy,” says Dr. John Heitmann, a Professor of History at the University of Dayton. Those who had been rich and privileged enough to own motors had been regularly uncertain of the way to operate them. So for both practical and status motives, a chauffeur changed into hiring. The wide variety of chauffeurs extended unexpectedly, so much in order that round 1908 most of the people of car-owners within the state of New York had a chauffeur.

A chauffeur with a Riley automobile, 1910.
A chauffeur with a Riley vehicle, 1910. LSE LIBRARY/ PUBLIC DOMAIN
By 1911 there had been 450,000 vehicles within the United States and one hundred,000 chauffeurs. These drivers seemed to have extraordinary energy and control over their employees. Dr. Kevin Borg, a history professor at James Madison University, says that between 1903 and 1912, this case was frequently termed the “chauffeur hassle” by means of the chauffeur’s employers and car garages’ managers.

 

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Instances of joyriding chauffeurs started appearing within the press all through America. One report from 1906 mentioned how a “reckless chauffeur” had zoomed past a horse carriage, which anxious the horses into walking away and caused the carriage to overturn, injuring the occupants. However, the joyrider couldn’t be apprehended as neither their identification nor their number plate becomes recognized.

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Apprehending a joyriding chauffeur who changed into drink-riding or even running people over turned into no longer always a straightforward manner. Even if the auto had a registration quantity that would be spotted, it may not be correct. One North Dakota newspaper article from 1909, which certain all of the mischievous antics chauffeurs used, referred to that “to keep away from detection he frequently hangs a false quantity on the machine” and “if he runs over every person which he regularly does, it’s miles his favorite trick to put on more speed and get away before he can be arrested.” The identical article suggested that chauffeurs have been inclined to acquire up “women of questionable individual and drinks which can be nonetheless extra questionable” after which go directly to “experience up the city.”

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An article from <em>The Evening Times</em>, May nine, 1909, calling for the law of joyriders, “generally a chauffeur.”
An article from The Evening Times, May nine, 1909, calling for regulation of joyriders, “normally a chauffeur.” LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
Joyriding changed into simplest one part of the chauffeur problem. In the early 20th century, many motors were saved publicly in garages. The chauffeur often had extensive power over where the cars have been housed and who had access to them. This meant that the chauffeur in query ought to benefit have an impact on at the garage owner and often achieve 10 percentage of regardless of the fees had been for the storage of the automobile. If proprietors have been unwilling to pay, chauffeurs had ways of extorting the money. This may want to encompass planned harm to the automobile by using the chauffeurs who then positioned the blame at the garage owner, main to their organization not wishing to do business in the garage.

Another manner that chauffeurs should abuse their position worried passing off the organization’s vehicle as their personal and making a living ferrying other passengers. This illicit carrier became aided by the storage proprietors who have been hesitant to question the chauffeurs about their unauthorized use of the automobiles. Drivers should earnings handsomely by hiring themselves out as a “limousine carrier to downtown theatergoers.” Sometimes it was simplest after the car crashed that the proprietor could turn out to be aware the car have been even taken from the garage.

“Under the brand new regulation, a reckless chauffeur have to have a bulging bank account,” from <em>The Evening World</em>, June 6, 1904.
“Under the new law, a reckless chauffeur should have a bulging financial institution account,” from The Evening World, June 6, 1904. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
Other infractions, as pronounced through the New York Tribune in November 1910, covered chauffeurs blaring noisy horns without notion for those around. Some of the horns have been “locomotive whistles,” blasted at a quantity “enough to wake the lifeless.” Rather bizarrely, chauffeurs had been additionally singled out inside the report for his or her “desertion of wives.” Dr. John Heitmann also notes that there were wider worries about the connection among a chauffeur and the wife of the automobile owner.

Those who felt victimized by means of the chauffeurs have been occasionally stirred into motion. In 1905, at a meeting of the Automobile Club of America in New York City, a Mr Shattuck stated that for chauffeurs the “temptation to fraud was very amazing.” One newspaper article from the Yorkville Inquirer of January 20, 1911, taken into consideration whether an educated marksman could hit a joyriding chauffeur as an ultimate end result in the event that they had been unable to obtain to take down their license wide variety required for an arrest. The newspaper admitted that maximum probably, passersby might get hit.

Less drastic and extra amusing solutions for dealing with chauffeurs’ reckless joyriding were additionally proposed. A cool animated film within the Omaha Bee of September 7, 1909, counseled a car layout with the chauffeur’s phase placed comically a long way beforehand so that any collisions would endanger the driving force rather than the passenger. This, it became argued, would “discourage reckless using.”