1904 Thomas


1904 Thomas in Nome, Alaska (photo credit: Library of Congress)

I came across this photo of a 1904 Thomas (E.R. Thomas Motor Co.) and with a bit of research I came to find that the car is a three cylinder, 30hp five passenger touring - I didn't realize Thomas built a three cylinder car.

Marring into the Lozier family, E.R. Thomas was managing director of their Toronto plant in 1895 (making bicycles). He would leave the firm, selling all his stock, to form his own company building motorcycles in 1899. In 1904, Thomas formed the E.R. Thomas Motor Co. to separate the automobile and motorcycle business (he had started building cars around 1901 in Buffalo, NY).

This image is quite curious so I looked up the photographer, Frank H. Nowell. Nowell was an early commercial photographer in Nome, Alaska. He would document the native peoples and the growing population of settlers looking to take advantage of the natural wealth of Alaska. Before moving his studio to Seattle in 1909 (Seattle was a bit of a hot bed of top-notch photographers at the time - including Edward Curtis), Nowell would photograph this 1904 Thomas multiple times. The MSCUA collection of the University of Washington has a large group of Nowell's work.

This car was quite expensive in the day and seems a bit out of place in Nome (not really a work vehicle). Regardless, it seems to have served as a backdrop for a number of images Nowell photographed. The questions remains: who's car was this? One image notes that the host for General Greely's visit was the Nome Chamber of Commerce. Could someone on the chamber have owned the car? My curiosity is peaked.

photo credit: The Horseless Age, September 21, 1904

photo credit: The Horseless Age, September 21, 1904

Same 1904 Thomas in Nome, Alaska (photo credit: MSCUA, University of Washington)

Another shot of the 1904 Thomas in Nome, Alaska (photo credit: MSCUA, University of Washington)

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