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Oklahoma Memories

First Car in Oklahoma City

2010-08-23

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"Well that was my father's brother, my uncle J.H. Everest, who was always quite a mechanic, and when he first heard that automobiles were going to be manufactured, he always wanted one, and finally the Stanley Steamer Company - I believe they were manufactured in Cleveland, Ohio - offered their cars, and he bought a Stanley Steamer. I think it was probably a 1903, I believe it was."

That's the voice of Harvey P. Everest whose uncle owned the first car in Oklahoma City.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

As a young child Harvey P. Everest and his parents made the land run into what became Oklahoma City. His father was a banker; his uncle was a businessman. And in the summer of 1903, his uncle purchased the first car to appear in Oklahoma City. It was a Stanley Steamer, so called because it was propelled by a steam engine.

"It had about 10 horsepower. You could travel about 50 miles before refilling the water tank, and the boiler you set out on top of the boiler. Of course in those days the steel wasn't very good and you was always a little fearful that the tank might explode which they did occasionally but never with my uncle's family, but it was quite an adventure to move about Oklahoma City with the sandy, muddy streets and this little Stanley Steamer and they [unintelligible] lots of comments and admiration from everybody. They thought it was a wonderful thing."

Everest's father was intrigued by his brother's "conveyance," as it was called back in the day, and some time later he also bought a car.

"Then two years later my father bought a 1-cylinder Oldsmobile. It had a curved dashboard and had a tiller for a set of a steering wheel. It likewise had 10 horsepower, 1 cylinder, and would sometimes get up to 25 to 30 miles per hour downhill. It had very little power, but we had a lot of fun in it, too."

Driving those vehicles on Oklahoma City streets was quite a challenge. Everest recalled the streets at about the time his uncle bought the Stanley Steamer.

"There was no pavement at all, and it was about 1903 or 1904 that I recall, that Main Street was paved between Broadway, well between the Santa Fe tracks really, and Hudson. That was paved, as I recall, with brick at that time, and then they gradually extended the pavement north on Broadway to 1st up to 3rd Street and then as far north as 6th, and I remember very well when 6th Street was the north boundary of any residences in Oklahoma City and just beyond that where the old Central High School is was a corn field in there."

In July 1909, a car being driven by Anton Classen with John Shartel as his passenger collided with the back of horse-drawn wagon in front of the Threadgill Hotel on Broadway in downtown Oklahoma City. The horse was not injured, the wagon suffered a broken wheel, Classen and Shartel walked away from the accident unharmed. That was one of the earliest wrecks reported in Oklahoma City.

Harvey Everest remembering a time in Oklahoma City before there were cars. That interview is just a part of the oral history collection at the Oklahoma History Center on NE 23rd Street just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.