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St. Louis Regional history comes alive in this joint production by KDHX and the Missouri Historical Society. Stories of our past are connected with the present in these well researched and entertaining short presentations about the people, places, and events that have shaped who we are and who we are becoming. 

Feb 3, 2023

Cars are ubiquitous in our day and age, but this wasn’t always so. There is a first for everything, and one man got to experience a ride in a car, that happened to be the very first automobile built west of the Mississippi. And he notated it well. Just press play to hear the whole story ———Click on search links to see if there are episodes with related content: Katie Moon, Transportation, ------

Podcast Transcript: ’m Katie Moon, Exhibits Manager at the Missouri Historical Society, and Here’s History on eighty-eight-one, K-D-H-X. ———

Driving a car for the first time is always exciting. Driving the first car ever built in St. Louis must have been an even bigger thrill. In 1893, cars were pretty much unheard of, but a curious young man by the name of J. D. Perry Lewis built his own and even took it out for a drive. In a stroke of luck, he wrote about that experience in great detail, and the full record lives in the archives of the Missouri Historical Society. Here’s some of what he wrote: ———

So one afternoon in June 1893 I backed out of my mothers carriage house at the rear of 3014 Morgan Street in the first successful automobile that was built west of the Mississippi River and took a drive through the western part of the city. ———

I had no license plates on the car, and no restrictions as to where and how I should drive, no traffic signs, nor police officers to bawl me out for making a U turn on Broadway. The machine was an open roadster driven by an electric motor which derived its power from storage batteries under the seat. The speed was about 12 to 15 miles per hour downgrade and about 8 to 9 miles uphill. ———

After backing out of the carriage down into the alley a friend got in and we drove out to Grand Avenue, then South on Grand to Olive Street, on which street cable cars ran in those days. We went with a whirring sound of the gearing to Lindell Boulevard where we turned west for Forest Park. By this time several horse drawn vehicles were following the car but when I hit the downgrade to Vandeventer Avenue I outran them until I was almost to the park when they caught up again. ———

The return trip was just the same with the exception of the last two or three blocks from home we stalled and the crowd that gathered helped us the rest of the way by pushing. ———

Many good rides were had in the little car after that first trip and never a word from the law against me for the way I drove. ———

Here’s History is a joint production of K-D-H-X and the Missouri Historical Society. I’m Katie Moon, and this is eighty-eight-one, K-D-H-X, St. Louis. ———