Cliff's Views: The trip of trips

Cliff's Views: The trip of trips

by Cliff Lynch
4. July 2012 05:08

Everyone who knows who Horatio Nelson Jackson is, raise your hand. If we had the visual capability to count the hands, I dare say there would be very few.

Jackson was a 31-year-old medical doctor from Burlington, Vermont, who happened to be visiting San Francisco with his wife in 1903. When it came time to return home, Mrs. Jackson took the train, and Dr. Nelson decided to drive. Although he was an automobile enthusiast, no one had ever driven across the United States before, and there was a strong opinion in the country that the automobile was just a fad that would soon disappear altogether. But that opinion was not shared by Dr. Jackson. He was so convinced that the automobile was a viable means of transportation that he made a $50 wager that he could drive back to Vermont. Although he was enthusiastic, he was not mechanical, and hired a mechanic, Sewall K. Crocker, to accompany him on the journey. There was also another problem: Jackson didn't own a car. But after purchasing a 1903 Winton touring car he was ready to go, and on May 23, left San Francisco.

1903 Winton - first car driven across the US (before roads!) with Bud the Dog -  in the National Museum of American History

So as you read this, reflect on the fact that 109 years ago this summer, Horatio Nelson Jackson was on his way to becoming the first man to travel across the United States in an automobile. He arrived in Vermont on July 26, 1903, 63 days after leaving San Francisco. There is not room here to describe the many misadventures that occurred on this historic journey, but suffice it to say, it was a challenge.

All of us in the industry are well aware of major transportation developments such as the completion of the first transcontinental railroad, the invention of the steamboat and the first diesel engine; but we are less aware of the many individuals who have been true pioneers in the development of the mobility the entire world enjoys today. Dr. Jackson was one of these.

Image by Charlie Rapple

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