Early Auto Registrations, 1905-1917


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Between 1905 and 1917, Floridians and visitors registered automobiles from over 300 distinct manufacturing companies in a variety of models and styles.

The record books in this collection provided space for the registrar to note the "style" of the vehicles being registered. The registrar's interpretation of "style" varied; in some cases he or she noted a specific model name for the vehicle, while in other instances a more general style of vehicle was listed. In some of the earliest records, the registrar sometimes even described a vehicle's "style" by indicating whether the automobile was powered by steam, gasoline, or electricity.

This page provides examples of the most common vehicle styles listed throughout the collection. All of these images are drawn from the Florida Photographic Collection and the Florida Broadsides & Ephemera Collection on Florida Memory. Click any image to enlarge it and learn more about the automobile it depicts.

Touring Car

The touring car or Phaeton was one of the most common styles of automobile in the early decades of the 20th century. Nearly every auto manufacturer offered a vehicle in this style. Touring cars generally were denoted by an open body seating four or more people. The standard-size Model T Ford is one of the most recognizable examples of this style.

Hudson Super-Six Touring Car, c.1916

Hudson Super-Six Touring Car, c.1916

1909 Maxwell-Briscoe Touring advertisement

1909 Maxwell-Briscoe Touring advertisement

Buick Model 10 with side entdance tonneau (rear seats), c. 1908.

Buick Model 10 with side entdance tonneau (rear seats), c. 1908

Runabout

Runabouts were one of the earliest varieties of automobiles, often referred to as "horseless carriages." They were typically characterized by a lack of doors, weatherproofing, or windshield. The engine was generally located underneath the seat, and in many cases it was powered by electricity. The Oldsmobile curved-dash vehicle, the Model A Ford (also known as the Fordmobile), and early Locomobile models followed the runabout style. In later years, the term "runabout" was used interchangeably with "roadster."

Oldmobile Curved Dash Runabout, c. 1903

Oldmobile Curved Dash Runabout, c. 1903

Ford Model A "Fordmobile" with tonneau 1903

Ford Model A "Fordmobile" with tonneau 1903

1904 Pope-Waverly Electric Runabout advertisement

1904 Pope-Waverly Electric Runabout advertisement

Luxury Cars & Limousines

The term "limousine" denotes a vehicle with compartments separating the driver from the passengers. Most early limousine were not of the distinctive "stretch" variety so common today. Landaulets, another variety of luxury car, provided an open roof for the rear passengers. Peerless, Pierce-Arrow, Packard, and Darracq were some of the most common makers of luxury cars in the early 20th century. The price for one of these vehicles was sometimes as much as ten times the price of a standard touring car.

1904 Peerless Advertisement (prices started at $2800 in 1904)

1904 Peerless Advertisement (prices started at $2800 in 1904)

Buick Model 41 Limousine, c. 1910

Buick Model 41 Limousine, c. 1910

1912 Advertisement for the White Company Berline Limousine.

1912 Advertisement for the White Company Berline Limousine

Trucks

Truck manufacturers generally advertised their vehicles according to their pulling capacity in tons. Some were fitted with special attachments such as tiltable beds. The White Company, International Harvester, Knox, Packard, and Reliance were some of the most popular truck makers in the early 20th century.

1912 Dayton Model K 3-ton truck Advertisement

1912 Dayton Model K 3-ton truck Advertisement

Utility Truck, c. 1918.

Utility Truck, c. 1918.

1912 Advertisement  for the White Company truck

1912 Advertisement for the White Company truck

Electric, Steam, and Gasoline

The gasoline-fueled internal combustion engine ultimately became America's motive power of choice, but not before steam and electric cars had an opportunity to compete. Electric car manufacturers emphasized the smooth, quiet ride their products provided, while steam car makers claimed to produce a safer, quieter vehicle whose primary requirement (water) could be found anywhere. Gasoline eventually won out, however, as the most economic and convenient fuel source.

1904 Baker Electric Runabout advertisement

1904 Baker Electric Runabout advertisement

Stanley Steamer Model 60, c.1909

Stanley Steamer Model 60, c.1909

1904 gasoline-powered Walter Car

1904 gasoline-powered Walter Car

Motorcycles

Manually propelled bicycles had just become popular when the automobile came onto the scene at the end of the 19th century. The early motorcycle grew out of an attempt to merge the power of the automobile with the personal freedom and maneuverability of the bicycle. In fact, a number of early motorcycle manufacturers, including Hendee and Excelsior, started out as bicycle makers.

Indian Powerplus Motorcycle, c. 1916

Indian Powerplus Motorcycle, c. 1916

Tampa Motorcycle Club, c.1919

Tampa Motorcycle Club, c.1919

Harley-Davidson Model 7A, c.1911

Harley-Davidson Model 7A, c.1911

Special Purpose Vehicles

When the so-called "horseless carriage" first emerged, most people viewed it as more of a curiosity or plaything for the wealthy. Quickly, however, creative business owners and auto enthusiasts found ways to modify the automobile for a wide range of uses. Many of the earliest hearses, delivery trucks, and buses were merely stripped-down cars with special attachments added after market. Increasingly, however, auto makers began offering these kinds of vehicles ready-made. Other companies specialized in making the necessary modifications to existing cars.

Moving Truck, c.1912

Moving Truck, c.1912

Hearse, c.1910

Hearse, c.1910

1917 American LaFrance Firetruck, Key West Fire Department

1917 American LaFrance Firetruck, Key West Fire Department

Moving Truck, 1916

Moving Truck, 1916

Lakeland-Tampa Line bus, 1919

Lakeland-Tampa Line bus, 1919

New Ocklawaha Hotel Bus, 1910s

New Ocklawaha Hotel Bus, 1910s


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