1910s Influence of the Automobile

By Ryndak, Heather | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), August 22, 1999 | Go to article overview

1910s Influence of the Automobile


Ryndak, Heather, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Heather Ryndak Daily Herald Staff Writer

By 1919, the days the automobile left behind dusty trails and bewildered onlookers had vanished.

No longer were automobiles considered a novelty or toys for the rich. They became public and private necessities.

Along the Fox Valley, those wanting to buy cars outnumbered the available supply. Local dealers were selling Fords, Maxwells, Overlands, Buicks, Jacksons and Chalmers-Detroits.

In 1915, the first motorized police patrol car and ambulance were built, followed by a motorized fire truck in 1916.

The Elgin Motorclub set an early precedence for safe and clean roadways.

In 1912, members of the motorclub campaigned for quality roads, sending members in outlying areas to fill in ruts and holes. Leaders of the motorclub convinced state legislators in 1916 to pass legislation that held state and local governments responsible for building safe roads.

The first concrete highway in the Fox Valley that replaced dusty roads was built in 1917 in St. Charles, called the Fox River Trail - now Route 31. At 18-feet wide, the road stretched 22 miles from Aurora to Elgin.

While not considered just show pieces, cars were still used for fun. Elgin auto enthusiast Frank B. "Tootie" Wood designed a race course in 1910 that drew national attention.

The 8.5-mile Elgin National Road Race circuit on the west side of town had no steep hills and no railroad crossing. Using what are now Larkin Avenue, McLean Boulevard, Highland Avenue and Coombs Road, the course provided straight-aways where cars could make top speed, and sharp turns that required driving skills. …

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