1904 Road Trip Through Prescott, Arizona

1904 Rambler and curved-dash Olds near Prescott, AZ (photo credit: Sharlot Hall Museum)

One of the keepers of Arizona's territorial history (Arizona didn't become a state until 1912) is the Sharlot Hall Museum in Prescott, Arizona. Included among their holdings are these photos of two cars traveling through Arizona (the photos were taken in the Prescott area circa 1904).  The museum notes that Frank Foster and Mrs. O. A. Helsa are traveling in an Oldsmobile along with a 1903 Cadillac. The museum dates the image around 1915.

I feel the images are earlier as the two vehicles shown are a 1903 Oldsmobile model R (or 1904 Oldsmobile model 6C) - commonly referred to today as a "curved-dash" Olds and a 1904 Rambler model K (not a Cadillac). Not surprisingly, these two brands were among the top sellers at the time with fairly extensive dealer representation. I'm not sure if Prescott had an Olds or Rambler dealer at the time, but either could have been acquired on the west coast. The pictures would indicate that they are out for more than a day trip given the luggage they're hauling.

Ransom E. Olds is one of our nation's earliest and most import automobile pioneers. After experiments with automobiles in the late 1890's, he set up a manufacturing enterprise only to have it burn to the ground in 1900 (Detroit factory). However, he was soon re-established in Lansing with the Horseless Age of May 14, 1902 reporting "The Olds Motor Works shipped the first carload of Oldsmobiles from its Lansing factory last week." The company gave the "Oldsmobile" name to its curved-dash model prior to reorganizing under that name soon after. The popularity of the curved-dash model kept it in production for 7 years and made The Olds Motor Works the largest automobile manufacturer in the United States. In fact, Olds introduced a new model (the French Front) in 1904, but the curved-dash continued to sell strong. The Horseless Age of December 9, 1903 estimated the top American Automobile producers to be: The Olds Motor Works with 6,000 to 7,000 vehicles, the Cadillac with 4000, the Ford with 3000, the Jeffery with 3000, and Winton with 2000.

Which brings us to another of the top five and the second car shown - the Rambler.  Thomas B. Jeffery & Company of Kenosha, Wisconsin was another early automotive pioneer. Jeffery had also experimented with cars in the late 1890's, and with much interest in his prototypes of 1900 and 1901, entered production in 1902. Thomas Jeffery sold his interest in the successful bicycle manufacturing enterprise, Gormily & Jeffery to the American Bicycle Company to fund his automobile factory. Interestingly, Thomas B. Jeffery & Company was the second automobile manufacturer to adopt the assembly - soon after The Olds Motor Works.

A curved-dash Olds and 1904 Rambler near Prescott, AZ (photo credit: Sharlot Hall Museum)



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