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Washington DC is Going to the Dogs: A Non-Political Look at Vintage Vehicles in the City

Some people say that things are going to the dogs in Washington and we found proof of it in the lead photo of a well-trained bulldog is sitting inside of the spare tires on the back of an enclosed limousine. It has also been said that if you want a friend in Washington get a dog, and this may well be one of those cases.

The two large cylinders you see on the back of the car are accessory Westinghouse hydraulic shock absorbers. The limousine shares the same general appearance from the rear as a Locomobile Model 48, which Company called the “Best Built Car in America.” 

An old time saying stated that you can go anywhere in a Model “T” Ford except in society was proven wrong by these women and their Ford pictured in 1922 in front of the White House. Can any readers tell us the reason why the women were invited to the “Executive Mansion.”

And finally, we jump forward fourteen years to this image of a plain clothes member of the Metropolitan DC Police Force using an early car phone in 1936. It appears the directions for using the device are attached to the headliner, and the speaker in front of it may have been for receiving messages while driving. Tell us who invented this device and the year and model of this car built by the Ford Motor Company.


36 responses to “Washington DC is Going to the Dogs: A Non-Political Look at Vintage Vehicles in the City

  1. For a minute there, I thought you opened the floodgates! Anyway, re the spare tire dog. It reminds me of my neighbor who went from Central Pa to Colorado in the early 30 s. She wasn’t allowed to go unless they took the dog with them. The dog cradled on the passenger running board and front fender the whole way out and back!

  2. I hope this isn’t considered political, but in the top pic, I’d be a little cautious when the next flat tire occurred. 🙂

  3. No Politics ! Where is the fun ??

    Could the bull dog be considered an early anti-thief device ? Did the car owner get an insurance discount? Seems Washington was a tough place back then also.

    Gals from the… ‘T Party’ ? Founding members of the ‘Red Hat Society “.

    Come on David, this could have been a lot of fun…..


  4. David, thanks for the history lesson. I thought the car phone was a much later invention than 1936. I learn something new every day from this site.

  5. “… Westinghouse hydraulic shock absorbers.”

    David, I believe you misspoke here. To the best of my knowledge, the Westinghouse shocks were not hydraulic but rather were air or gas shocks, one of the first damper designs of this type.

    Yes, nitpicking, but worth noting for accuracy , as I hope you will agree.

    • I had a set of these shocks which are actually air and hydraulic units. The air was at atmospheric pressure and when compressed it activated the hydraulic portion of the device.

      “The Automobile” Jan. 30th 1913 issue in its description of the device states: “Within the cylinders there is contained a volume of air usually at atmospheric pressure and below this is a quantity of oil.”

  6. The Model T at the White House is wearing a “Mich….” front license plate. According to some sources Mrs. Harding was very open to visitors and was noted for opening the White House to them. She, for example, entertained female journalists on occasion. Perhaps that’s what we are seeing here.

  7. The White House used to be much more accessible than it is now. The ladies in the Model “T” probably just drove up for a picture.

    • You are correct Bob. I visited the WH in the late 50’s and we just walked in….no invitation required. Not anymore.

  8. My guess is the ladies are there to celebrate the passage of the 19th Amendment, allowing women the right to vote.

    • Hi Mike, that was my guess, as well, however, the 19th amendment was ratified on Aug. 18, 1920, at least 2 years before this picture was taken. ( if the date is 1922) They sure look like their a fix in’ for a demonstration.

  9. More nitpicking: If it was a Locomobile, wouldn’t it have dual taillights mounted above the spare tires? I thought that was a styling cue unique to Locomobiles of this vintage.

    • I did not say it was a Loco, only that it “shares the same general appearance” as one. Yes, that is was one of the Loco’s “trademarks” at the time; the spare tire bracket is also different from standard issue from the factory.

      • The spare tire bracket looks identical to that on my second series Packard Twin six insofar as I can see enough to judge; but I fail to see evidence of the Packard’s platform rear suspension; incidentally, how DID Westinghouse mount its air shocks on autos with platform rear suspension? .
        Definitely not a Packard tail light and it would have to be a non-factory body judging by the fenders.
        These days most owners with Westinghouse air shocks or springs leave them airless and collapsed down due to failure of the leather seals. In fact it is not too difficult to refurbish them with modern seals as I described in the Horseless Carriage Gazette for July-August 2014 – well worthwhile if you want to prevent a spring breakage and have a comfortable ride.

  10. Just some input on our girls at the White House”…my aunt was a member of the YMCA doughnut girls that went to France in 1918. She was Stationed in Le Mans and these girls operated R & R areas and did great service as directed by General Pershing . A couple of these girls are wearing what I believe was the standard Y ” uniform.

  11. Well I can’t tell you who manufactured that particular unit but the first two way police radio was designed by Lieutenant Vincent J. Doyle of the Detroit Bayonne Police and radio engineer Frank Gunther. That was in 1933. Interestly the first one way police radio communication device was also developed in house by Lieutenant Vincent J. Doyle of the Detroit Bayonne Police and radio engineer Frank Gunther in 1928. Judging by the speaker housing I’d guess that unit was a commercial unit.

  12. Is that the thing you always hear in old movies going,”Calling all cars! Calling all cars!Be on the lookout for Baby Face!He just robbed the bank!”

  13. I vote for the car as being a “Fordor” Ford and four doors were (and still are) very convenient for hauling “scofflaws” and those with not enough “Mental Floss” away. Yes, the “list” above the Officer is official Police Codes for the offense, condition , or emergency to respond to. Before Radio, each City or Parkway Roads had “Police Call Boxes” for Police work. Out went the Ford 3-brush 6 Volt generator! Instead , the Leece -Neville Company’s Alternator offered high output at Idle Speed, — On-Up to 85 MPH., (or more, — if the engine was a “Police Special) “. The Alternator’s required (separate external 3- Phase A.C to D.C. “Selenium Rectifier Stacks” were mounted on the Radiator’s upper tank stay-rods or next to the battery on the firewall, to receive Radiator Fan Air Cooling . Instead of 20 Ampere generator output the Alternator had double or more of that amount. A set of Ford Truck dual belt pulleys were used on: the Dual Belt Crank Pulley (2) WaterPump Dual Pulleys and Dual Pulleys on the Alternator for reliability and extra horsepower consumed, — by the Radio Equipment, Siren , Dual Red lights , Fog Lights, Dual Spot Lights and special 30/50 Candlepower Lo/ Hi Beam headlamps . “Police Specials” could be ordered from the Factory which also included front Bumper “Over-riders “for pushing dead vehicles to the side of the road. Both – the receiver & transmitter of the radiotelephone required a device called a “Dynamotor” that raised the 6 Volts D.C. to 250 and 500 Volts D.C ., to power the vacuum tubes of the equipment. The Frequency was 1700 Kilo-Cycles, – just above the Broadcast Band and Home Radios began to include the “Police Calls Band” to be: “In on the action”. (So could the bad guys!!!) The term: “Police Special” still exists! I maintained a 165 MPH Dodge Polara for the Highway Patrol. It would Go fast and Stop fast. Edwin W.

  14. The “Tin Lizzie” “T” Ford , – 1916 & UP- reveals that: “The Girls” have :”travelled from afar” : Extra spares, a tarp and an expandable rack for the usual three: Water, Gasoline & Oil metal cans “trio” —are on the LHS running board . This is NOT a cheesecake shot: These adventurous ladies are in “Road Gear” (overclothing ). One could say that they were smiling for the photographer. How nice! I believe that they were smiling because the vibration, lack of shock absorbers , Open body, dirt roads. rain, Wind, heat, cold , bugs, flies, cow pastures to pass and creeks to Ford — were now behind them! They also have Mr. Kelsey & Kelsey’s Nuts to thank — for demountable Rims!!! This one feature convinced a lot of women to accept travelling!!!

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