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Joliet, "one of the greatest centers of the Illinois motordom"


Like many small industrial cities of the early 20th Century, Joliet was home to a handful of automobile manufacturers, very small outfits which were destined to last only a few years. But while those golden years lasted, Joliet and other cities reveled in unabashed civic pride over their place within the fledgling industry. Below is an article from the March 13, 1909 edition of the Joliet Evening Herald (via the Joliet Public Library's wonderful "Joliet Remembers" site). I'm amused by the manner in which the article quickly shifts from boosting the car dealerships and one local manufacturer to a shameless cataloging of the relative horsepowers of the city's elite.

Golden Era Dawns For Auto Trade

Prospects for Present Season Brighter Than Ever - General Opinion Points to Magnificent Business

The golden wreath has twined itself around the wheels of Joliet auto industry and the season of 1909 is certain to mark an epoch which will rank the city as one of the greatest centers of the Illinois motordom. Throughout the union the auto trade is advancing and Joliet is not behind in the race for before the snow flies the experts claim that one hundred machines of all makes and sizes will be added to the city's roster.

Two new garages have opened, in anticipation of the summer season, making four now in operation. They are the Steinhart & Jensen, 100 Cass street; L.J. Kinnel, 104 Jefferson st., Campbell & Keeling, 106-108 Joliet street and Peterson garage, 206 Clinton street. The Cadillac is handled by Steinhart & Jensen, the Mitchell by Kinnel, The "E.M.F. 30" by Campbell & Keeling, the Ford by Arthur Howard and the Buick by Peterson. The Oakland, the car introduced a few days ago, will probably by handled by R.C. Bruce, with headquarters at 1600 Collins st.

Perhaps the greatest step toward making Joliet an automobile center was made by Dr. J.C. Flowers in the establishment of the Economy Motor Buggy company's works. A three story brick structure was erected at Cass and Maple street and the manufacture of vehicle automobiles was started on January 13. The cost of the plant and equipment was about $50,000. The output of machines has been continuous since the first wheel was turned and the demand has at all times exceeded the capabilities of the plant.

Many large vehicles

Colonel John Lambert is the owner of the largest and best equipped car in Joliet, a Mercedes of 65 H.P.; Geo. Woodruff is the owner of a Stearn machine, 55 H.P., and W.F. Pilcher drives a Chalmers of Detroit of 40 H.P. P.D.R. Mathias, superintendent of the Steel mills is the possessor of a 30 H.P. White Steamer, while many other owners have expensive cars.

National automobile interests are represented by C.F. Jensen, a member of the firm of Steinhart & Jensen. Mr. Jensen was chosen president of the National Retail Automobile Dealer's association at an election last year and has since been called upon to act as mediator in some of the large and most important conflicts that have assailed auto interests.

September 1, 2007 in Joliet | Permalink