Dakota Datebook

Early Automobiles in Bismarck

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

 

In March of 1909, the citizens of Bismarck were becoming much more mobile, wanting to be as progressive as the rest of the country. As a result, the first automobile advertisement in Bismarck appeared. The car dealership of Miller and Lahr advertised a Ford Model T automobile, in any color you desired – as long as you picked “DARK GREEN.” The auto was a four-cylinder, 20-horsepower model, a touring car without a top. The price was $850.

Not to be outdone, a competing Bismarck dealership, C.W. Henzler, advertised a Buick Flying Devil runabout for $1000.

In October of 1910, Lahr Motor Sales advertised the following, “Free storage for your car for the winter. The car will be overhauled by expert mechanics, worn parts renewed, everything tightened up and good as new next spring.”

By the year 1911, there was fierce competition between the various Bismarck dealerships. Advertisements shown in spring of 1911 showed Lahr Motor Sales selling the Parry brand of car, which was a speedy 36 horse power, 5-passenger vehicle in a “torpedo style.” The car was “guaranteed for life,” came complete with lamp equipment and sold for the price of $1,350.

For the customer on a budget, there was the Ford Model T touring car, sold by Bertsch Brothers. The Model T came without an extension top, without a speedometer, and without frills. If the customer wanted “all the frills,” there was an additional $80 charge. Bertsch Brothers was also the dealership for the Chalmers and the Hupmobile line of cars. The Chalmers appealed to the customer with a little more money to spend, those who wanted a bit more glitz and glamour in their auto. The Chalmers “30” model sold for $1,600, while the “40“ model touring car was an expensive $2,750.

For those Bismarck citizens without an automobile, taxi services were first advertised on May 27, 1911. Charles Griffee offered his taxi services to those who needed to go out and about in the thriving Capital City.

Progression means new laws and rules. For the first time in North Dakota state history, license tags were required for cars in 1911. North Dakotans accepted the automobile and its culture with glee, as by July of 1911, 6,615 tags had been issued to North Dakota automobiles. The automobile had been engrained in our early culture and was here to stay.

 

Dakota Datebook written by Jill Whitcomb

 

Sources: History of the City of Bismarck, ND- the First 100 Years-1872-1972- George F. Bird and Edwin J. Taylor

 

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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