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Exceptional Early Photograph: The Stockton Automobile Co. Garage

Today’s circa 1905 to ’06 feature image contains a group of early cars and drivers parked on the street and on a broad sidewalk in front of the Stockton Automobile Co. In the view above is a pair of Wintons, a Pope-Toledo, an Autocar, a trio of Ramblers¬†a Cadillac and two unidentified automobiles. At least a couple of the machines pre-date the photograph.

Research has found that the Garage is listed by the California Secretary of State as a corporation formed on July 27, 1903, with an investment of twenty-five thousand dollars of capital stock. The “Motor Age” reported on April 23, 1904, that the Garage would “establish a Sunday morning automobile school and the workings of each automobile will be will be demonstrated.” A reference was found that listed the Company as being in business as late as 1922.

Share with us what you find of interest or can add to this article. The photograph by Van Covert Martin is courtesy of the University of the Pacific Library.

23 responses to “Exceptional Early Photograph: The Stockton Automobile Co. Garage

  1. It is my impression that the 3rd car from the left (between the Rambler and the Pope-Toledo) is a Pope-Toledo too. The car on the right side of the Pope seems to be a 1905 Dolson. All cars could very well be 1905 models except for the Winton on the far left, which is probably a 1904 model.

  2. The Stockton Automobile Company lives on through an early court case which continues to be cited to this day.

    Stockton Automobile Co. v Confer was decided by the California Supreme Court in 1908> The case had to do with a lawsuit for damages to an automobile owned by Stockton Automobile Company which (while driving at 2AM in Stockton) struck a large pile of road material which a contractor had left in the road during the course of constructing a crosswalk. The contractor had been hired by the Stockton Board of Public Works .

    The description of events leading to the damages to the auto case may be viewed online.

  3. “The Automobile” reported on 14 May 1904 that the structure was 50 by 100 feet, but that was considered inadequate and the company was going to add an addition to house the machine shop and a charger for electric vehicles. The officers of the company are listed as President J. P. Sargent, Vice-President F. P. Adams, and Secretary Harry H. Hewlett, and it was also noted that they were going to offer cars for rent, with or without drivers.

  4. All of the vehicles in the photos have right hand drive. This was a common feature on early cars as they were usually chauffeur driven and it allowed the driver to step on to the curb and assist the passengers out of the vehicle without first having to walk around the car. Gradually over the next few years, automobile manufacturers switched to left hand drive. The reasoning was that placing the driver on the side of the car closest to the center of the road gave the driver a better view of the road and oncoming traffic.

    • As late as 1913, Automobile Dealer and Repairer was reporting that only 30% of new cars had left hand drive, which was up from 13% in 1912.

      Just as a photographic note, I’m surprised the dog held still enough to be photographed that clearly.

    • Thank you! That makes perfect sense. I’ve always assumed it was just a matter of each manufacturer’s individual choice, and the popularity of the Model T drove everyone to put the steering on the left side.

    • My understanding it was Henry Ford who gave us left hand drive. He chose that configuration for the T, because it let passengers enter the car without crossing into traffic and gave drivers a better view of oncoming cars. (“Keep right” had been the law since 1792.) After the assembly line explosion, every other car on the road was a Ford, so left-hand drive became the law.

      • The Model T’s popularity (and the expansion of the automobile to social classes that didn’t have chauffeurs) probably sealed the decision, but Autocar had standardized on left hand drive three years before the first T was built.

  5. I don’t know IF or WHEN left hand drive ever became “the law” in the USA. But it was a choice well beyond just the earliest automobiles. Henry Ford’s decision to make the model T a left hand drive car certainly hastened the pace of that decision.
    Several major high end automobiles continued with right hand drive for several more years. Locomobile offered both right and left hand drive beginning I think in 1915 as a customer’s choice. The CCCA’s decision to move back the acceptable era for the classics accepts some Locomobile cars if left hand drive and the right hand drives are not accepted (last I heard? I am not a current member). Pierce Arrow was exclusively right hand drive until I believe about 1920. Stutz I believe went another year or two beyond even that!

    I always had a bit of an issue with the CCCA’s decision because they would accept a Pierce Arrow, or Stutz, of several years and models, even though they were right hand drive, but not a Locomobile of the same year because of which side the steering wheel was placed. I just believed that if a given model and year series was acceptable, all such model and year should be acceptable regardless of the steering wheel placement. I mention this here not to start a discussion of CCCA’s policies, but to point out a recent reference of Locomobile offering that option.

    There were numerous other American built automobiles that continued with right hand drive until about 1920. After Ford’s move, most of the rest of the American industry started following suit and switched over the course of about five years.
    It also should NOT be forgotten that there were some American cars that were left hand drive even by 1900. Although the majority between 1898 and 1910 were in fact right hand drive, there was no rule that had to be followed. Autocar gave the customer the option of right or left hand drive fairly early, about 1903 as I recall.

    • Wayne, Very good explanation about the change over to right hand drive. A small correction follows that I only know of because of owning a 1915 Locomobile;
      1913 was the year both r.h.d and l.h.d. were offered and the 1914 was the first model year the automaker changed completely to l.h.d.

  6. Speaking of right hand drive – I remember for many years one could order American Motors cars with right hand drive. They were popular with rural mail and newspaper delivery drivers. I knew one guy who in the 80s was able to order a right hand drive Subaru for his rural route in Nebraska.

    • The American Motors RHD cars were originally built for the U S Navy for use in countries like Japan and Australia. In 1963 when the 1956 Army staff cars were being fazed out Chevrolet began offering RHD sedans after some MPs were killed in LHD cars in Tokyo traffic. The Chevys were as large as many Japanese trucks. Also Ford of Canada made RHD Model Ts into the 1920s. Most were for export. But, Canadians could buy them. My Grandfather from Ontario preferred them for his family cars.

  7. Studebaker offered RHD into the 60’s(?) and called the package the Rural Router. You can still order a Jeep with RHD for rural mail routes, and Subaru may still offer it as well.

  8. The pre-state license plate on the 1905 Rambler Surrey Type One automobile I’m sure would be worth quite a lot of money today if it happened to be around as those types of plates are extremely rare.

  9. Seeing the Ramblers makes me sad. A friend of mine lost his 1907 Rambler two cylinder original car that he had owned since the mid-forties and had taken on the 1946 Horseless Carriage Tour. The Carr Fire also wiped out his home full of antiques and a T Ford and a 1902 restored Rambler. Another friend lost his home and a 1910 Buick Model 19, a 1913 Ford T, and a 1932 Ford V8 Cabriolet that was in the process of being restored. A 1907 Buick Model F Runabout was injured in the fire. The fire was started by an 80 year old driver who had a flat tire on a trailer that he neglected to realize was flat. It’s rumored that it occurred on Federally managed property and that the Cal-Fire units that showed up were delayed because of some red tape.

  10. The Rambler with license plate 953 was owned by Samuel F. Ruff who worked for one of the railroads. In 1912 he took on a Henderson Motor Car Company franchise in Stockton.

    • That is not correct, the change to wheel steering took place a year later. in 1905 the type X still had tiller steering.

  11. One story is that right hand drive was a holdover from the horse and buggy, where the buggy whip mount was on the right side since the driver used it with his right hand.

  12. Many Provences in Canada did not switch to driving on the right until the 20’s. BC switched on Jan i, 1922. They made the change to conform to US practice. I understand from my grandfather, a long resident of Victoria, BC, that there was some confusion on that New Year’s Day. A few collisions were reported ūüėČ

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