Book tells local story of automobile's early years

The Dakota Western Auto Club is celebrating Dickinson's 125th anniversary by publishing the expanded second edition of the book titled "Dickinson and the Automobile: The Early years 1903-1929."...

The Dakota Western Auto Club is celebrating Dickinson's 125th anniversary by publishing the expanded second edition of the book titled "Dickinson and the Automobile: The Early years 1903-1929."

"No other local club in North Dakota or in the country has published a similar book," said Editor Carl Larson.

He said members of the club researched and published the first edition of the book in 1982 in recognition of Dickinson's centennial.

"We were asking when the first car came to Dickinson, who had the first cars and dealerships. Nobody knew anything," he said.

The club committee researched The Dickinson Press, the Dickinson Recorder and the Recorder-Post. People went to the Heritage Center at Bismarck to do research.


"The majority of information refers to Dickinson and the immediate area, but when people got more reliable cars, they went quite long distances," he said.

He said the first edition has been out of print for many years. The new edition includes additional material which was not readily available in 1982.

The second edition includes 30 new photographs and more information about cars built in the area.

"One of the main attractions is the appendix that lists names and other information about all the people in southwestern North Dakota counties who had licenses in 1911," he said.

"People from Bowman and Hettinger or wherever could be interested in the book because grandpa's car might be listed," he said.

Larson transcribed the information from license records.

"This broadens the base of interest for the edition," he said.

"The second edition has a bunch of additional items we thought would be of interest from 1915 to 1929," he said. "People with the first edition should be encouraged because of the licensing records and new material."


"I've been gathering material over the years while researching other things. I didn't start putting this together until February," he said.

Larson focused on excerpts having educational or humorous material. In one account from the Recorder-Post, a woman went to a local doctor to have several corns removed. She was told to soak the corns in a bowl of hot water. Returning to the room, the doctor found the woman sitting in the bowl. The doctor nearly fainted when she told him where the corns were after having ridden in a Ford car all summer.

Another incident reports Anthony Kubik, who farmed 12 miles southeast of Dickinson, invented an automatic garage door opener. The device also turned on the electric light inside the building.

A third account described an officer with the Canadian army who stopped in Dickinson in his $14,000 Rolls-Royce.

Photos depict the C. H. DeFoe's Buick Agency, the Diedrich-Johnson Motor Co., the Goodyear Service Station, the Oldsmobile Agency and Sax Motor Co.

Even the vintage ads offer insight into the emerging automobile industry. The Northwestern Motor Company advertised a Model 10 Buick for $1,000, and the More Bros. advertised the Dakota for a price of $675.

Researching the automobile industry was a labor of love for Larson.

"It satisfied my curiosity and provided information about the fascinating story of automobile in this area, and to celebrate the 125th anniversary of Dickinson," he said.


When the automobile came into the western culture, it transformed transportation and accessibility.

"We take that for granted. Our cars are reliable and those things did not exist from early on. I like old cars, but I'd be a terrible pioneer," he added.

The publication date coincides with the club's 30th Medora Car Show on Saturday, June 23, on the grounds of the Badlands Motel.

The book sells for $10 and may be purchased during the show or from club members.

What To Read Next
Get Local