Car Wreck. Photo by Lewis Reed, ca. 1920
This photo taken by Lewis Reed in the early 1920s was not picked for its shock value, but for the history it contains of an era long since gone. Until the early 1900s, the primary mode of daily transportation in the United States had four legs and ran on hay. Horse-drawn carriages and buggies could be driven by almost anyone – even children. By the early 1910s, a different kind of horsepower hit the road — and in a big way, eventually outnumbering their carrot-munching counterparts. In the first 10 years of the 1900s, there were no stop signs, traffic lights, lane lines, brake lights, driver’s licenses, or posted speed limits. It was the wild west when it came to driving. Drinking and driving? Not that big a deal. Poorly maintained roads, uneducated drivers, and speeds approaching 40 mph was the perfect combination for some really bad accidents. This photograph sure hits home with just how fragile those early cars were.
Dodge Brothers was the first automaker to build a dedicated test track with a hill climb, while other car companies tested their new vehicles on city streets. The speedway test is by one of many given Dodge Brothers cars before being O.K.’d for shipment. It was said that John Dodge crash-tested a car into a brick wall at 20 mph to study the results. His reasoning was that “someone else is going to do it.”
Dodge Test Track 1915
The clipping is from the Bismarck Daily Tribune, April 21, 1915 newspaper.
Bismarck Daily Tribune April 21, 1915