American Automobile Association

American Automobile Association by Geoff Wheatley
A Look at the early period of the American Automobile Association
Published by: All Car central Publishing
Date published: 04/1/2015

By chance I recently obtained an original publication of the "American Motorist"" June 1909, the official publication of the American Automobile Association.

1907 Stevens-Duryea U Touring

1907 Stevens-Duryea U Touring

Originally it cost fifteen cents but featured forty six pages of articles, advice, general information and some very interesting advertisements. Remembering that the automobile was still in its infancy, the first registered American vehicle was only twelve years old when this publication was printed, the content would pass today as a Tech Magazine. The first advertisement when you turn the front page features the "Pierce Arrow" the heading states "A Car For Riding...Not Racing" with this message in below the statement, "But it has won every touring competition where ever it was entered" The reader is then invited to contact the factory located in Buffalo N.Y. for more details.

On the next full page is a message telling the reader that "Firestone" are the best tires available and can last up to ten thousand miles or even more! On another page there are a total of ninety one cars obviously available at that time that uses "The New Bosh Magneto". On another page we find an interesting article obviously paid for by Franklin Automobiles of N.Y pointing out that water cooled engines are prone to many problems while air cooling is both simple and reliable. To ensure that the reader will agree the recent achievement of driving a Franklin from New York to San Francisco in a record fifteen days and furthermore, was the only contestant to complete the challenge.

Not to be out done Studebaker has a full page advertisement advertising that its new ignition system revolutionizes the performance of the car. By agreement the company now has secured the rights to use the Mercedes Bosch Magnetic Spark Plug, that can achieve five thousand miles of use without adjustment.

1910 White Model 0-0 Steamer 4 Passenger Touring

 1910 White Model 0-0 Steamer 4 Passenger Touring

The White Company of Cleveland featured a full page special with the headline Drive a White Steamer. The principle feature seems to be that you can drive this car anywhere even if there is no paved or prepared road. Quote, "You can drive on a bad road without any inconvenience while the most interesting parts of the country are without good roads...Buy a White Steamer and see the world" This statement is backed up with a photo of the car plugging its way through a sandy beach.

This certainly came as a surprise to this scribe when I turned to the information page to learn that in 1909 there were over five hundred and fifty automobile clubs associated with the AAA, active in almost every state in America. National club membership was in excess of 23,500 with 18,357 individual subscribers to the AAA.

There is no information on the annual cost to belong to either of these organizations but I guess if you could own a car you would not be too bothered by the price of membership! The various articles are quite informative in relation to the time period.

A contributor Mr. Herbert Towle made an interesting forecast relating to the expansion of the American cities through the development of the automobile. 'I QUOTE' ..."If you draw a mile wide circle around the average town in America you will find high density of both commerce and private housing. Draw a second circle of one mile and the density will substantially reduce. One more circle and you will be in wide open spaces with the only dwellings being a few single homesteads and small farms. With the development of the automobile all this will change, people and business will expand into these areas...Homes will be developed and services such as schools and churches will be built", how?

Simply because of the ability of people and commerce to travel by car or motor coach. In time this may well replace the local tram and/or horse drawn services. I would suggest that Mr. Towle was way ahead of his time and of course quit right.

There is another section dealing with comfort while motoring and offering a selection of both clothing and mechanical attachments. One being an extra front windscreen that, when rain or dust becomes a problem will extend the height of the screen this being achieved by a clockwork spring arrangement that the driver will keep wound to full capacity every time he expects rough weather.

Again I QUOTE..." With the standard windscreen you have to stop and get out to raise the top section of the screen then ensure that it is safe by adjusting various screws etc. With the clockwork version you simple raise the half screen with one hand whilst still driving"... A wide variety of attire was available from the full dress driving coat, various hats that were guaranteed to keep out the rain and of course various full size gloves...For the Ladies the choice was quite extensive and fashionable with full bloom hats that had secret tabs to keep them in place even when the car might be driven as fast as twenty miles an hour. Goggles of all shapes and sizes were featured for both men and women.

The clock work screen was offered at two sizes the first forty one inches high $35 or the larger screen forty four inches at $37.50. Fitting was free by the garage that was offering this devise. A wide range of accessories were offered that would enhance the drive and add value to the vehicle. The latest Volt Ammeter at $5.00 or a coil Current Indicator at $5.50 both a must for any serious owner. Various Spark Plugs guaranteed to fire in any conditions and incorporating a special terminal attachment that was guaranteed not to separate from the plug, one dollar for the spark plug and twenty five cents for the attachment. (Buy four plugs and get the attachments free). The latest in Magneto technology with built in switch would set you back a cool $15.00 but would improve starting and fuel consumption, the prime of the collection was the speed indicator selling for just under a hundred dollars or a twin version incorporating a clock for one hundred and ten dollars.

Justification for such a purchase was spelled out in clear and simple terms. Quote..." When on tour the speed indicator is required to calculate how many miles you have driven, also in locations where there are speed limits, an example would be in a city where you are required not to exceed twelve miles per hour you may easily be stopped by a policemen who has the ability to record your speed of say fifteen miles resulting in a ten dollar fine or even more, therefore the speed indicator can pay for itself in a matter of months. We all know that tires do not last more than five thousand miles often less, so it is important that you pay the extra dollar and buy the best. We recommend Diamond Wrapped Tread Tires or Firestone. Yes you may have to pay up to five dollars a tire but the investment is well chosen".

Lists of Blue Book AAA hotels were featured that included a selected few for Canada which I assume means that AAA Members could obtain special rates in both countries and primer booking. The list also states that in a few months more hotels would be featured as the importance of the American Automobile Association became known. At the moment both New England and New York were fully covered. Each selected hotel had allotted under cover space for the member's vehicles.

An editorial made an excellent case for more what was called Business Runabouts, something between a commercial vehicle and a private car that could be used for both purposes. Most cars were not designed for commercial work while commercial vehicles lacked the refinements for private use by the owner and/or his family.

Remembering that this publication is one hundred and six years old I think the content of the articles etc., is impressive and in certain cases way ahead of the day when motor cars were still considered as being dangerous and noisy, driven by irresponsible people with too much money to waste.
Geoff Wheatley

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