Saturday, June 28, 2008

In Defense of the Duryea

Whether it's the line at the deli or making a major technological advance, humans tend to want to be first. Heck, ever notice those people who put the hammer down to get to the next red light? Got there first, didn't they?

Most of the time, it's not that important to be first. Second or third spot in line at the deli isn't so bad if you're patient. Eventually you'll be first. Promise.

Sometimes being first can be dangerous. Like: "First hiker proves existence of mountain lions in Western Massachusetts. Funeral on Tuesday."

There are some firsts worth fighting for, though, if only to avoid the accusation of 'copycat' when you come out with the second or third of whatever it is you want to be first to create. Let's face it, you can't invent Velcro again.

Sometimes the fight to be first never ends, disputes and dissonance plaguing the history of many an important advance. The advent of the gas car is one example of controversy that continues on long after the minds of the men who raced to be first to fly on four wheels have turned to dust.

Found on the web site of the Library of Congress, the pamphlet below (originally printed on both sides of one sheet of paper and folded accordion-style) was published in 1937, and amounts to not only a brief, interesting history of the automobile, but a defense of the Duryea Motor Wagon's distinction as America's first gas car. Forty-five years after Charles Duryea's brain child rolled down Taylor Street in Springfield, on April 19, 1892, the battle to be first raged on.

For more on one of Springfield's most famous firsts, check out the previous EWM post, Postcards: Duryea Motor Wagon Company, or read my post The driving Duryea brothers, Springfield's automobile pioneers over at

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care.

Pamphlet Source: Library of Congress, Printed Ephemera Collection, Digital ID:

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1 comment:

Joey B said...

I love the text... it's like 19th century lolspeak.