Monday, July 30, 2007

Postcards: Duryea Motor Wagon Company

Heather Brandon and Bill Dusty over at Urban Compass are the bloggers to read if you want to know about the cool stuff that's going on in Springfield. I kind of rely on them to pull my head out of the dimly-lit corners of the past every so often and make me look around at what's happening real-time.

Bill's post from this past Thursday includes some great photos taken and a link to a video he shot while exploring Springfield's historic Maple Street, known in the 1600s as "the road on the brow of the hill." You can also find Bill over at the Springfield Intruder.

Heather wrote last Friday about a $15,000 tourism grant that the city received that it will use to emphasize Springfield's historical "firsts," which is just plain awesome. Check out Heather's column, which also includes a list of some of the firsts that will be highlighted. With some thought and research, the partial list could be undoubtedly be magnified ten-fold, I believe Springfield is that rich in manufacturing, educational and creative historical firsts. Milton Bradley alone - in the list credited with creating the first mass-produced board game, "The Checkered Game of Life" in 1860 - also invented and patented the first one-armed paper cutter in 1881, created the first children's jigsaw puzzle in 1880 and was instrumental in the publishing of the first kindergarten guide in the English language. He, his wife and father started and taught the first kindergarten in Springfield, and the first two students were, in fact, the Bradley's two daughters.

Before Milton Bradley set off on his own in commerce, he worked as a lithographer for the Wason Manufacturing Company, a maker of railway cars that is most likely responsible for many firsts of its own in the fabricating industry, the company being completely self-contained and able to make every part necessary for the creation of a train car in-house at its own sprawling facilities in Springfield's North-end. One "first" attributable to Wason that I cannot confirm as of yet, but have read somewhere and will try to source, is that it was the first railway car manufacturer in the United States to export its product overseas, the company's luxurious, made-to-order private cars coveted by sultans and royalty in far-away lands.

Here are a couple of postcards commemorating one of Springfield's most-famous "firsts," the creation and manufacture of the first American automobile by the Duryea Motor Wagon Company, established September 21, 1895. The gasoline-powered car had one of its first tests on April 19, 1892, at 47 Taylor Street, located at about the middle of the block bordered by Dwight and Main Streets. At the time, Taylor Street ended a block or two east of Chestnut Street. What is now "upper" Taylor - between Spring and Armory Streets - was known as "Summer Street." The area between Taylor and Summer Streets was occupied by buildings.

Learn more about the Duryea Motor Wagon Company with EWM post, In Defense of the Duryea or read my contribution at The driving Duryea brothers, Springfield's automobile pioneers.

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care.

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heather said...

Thanks for the plug and the additional information, Mark. Springfield sure offers a lot for history buffs.

sojourner said...

Thanks for the referral to Ralph Slate's site. I'd seen the houses site, but not the history. Fascinating!