The 1907 automobile problem

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By Jesse Osbourne


Recently Billy Webb, the husband of our circulation manager and bookkeeper, Renee Webb, dropped off a copy of the November issue of The Kentucky Explorer.

The monthly magazine, “featuring things old and new about Kentucky,” mentions Springfield and references a story from the June 12, 1907 edition of The Springfield Sun.
The broader topic the magazine was addressing was early milestones for the automobile industry in Kentucky.
More specifically, the story referenced from The Sun addressed solutions to the “automobile problem.”
Here’s an excerpt from the magazine story, which was excerpted from our newspaper:
“How are we to solve the automobile problem? That question is being seriously considered by the people of Washington County at this time. The situation is more or less serious. The agitation has been caused by reckless driving of these machines - by men or boys who have at various times utterly disregarded the safety of men, women, and children who travel in buggies and other vehicles upon the public highways. The time has come when something must be done. Women who live in the country are afraid to leave home in a buggy - even with the ‘old reliable’ family horse doing service in the shafts. They have no assurance that they will not meet one of those ‘don’t-care-if-I-do-kill-you motorists,’ under whose belt the ‘contents of a quart’ is fermenting and brewing meanness.”
The magazine article goes on to talk about the details of the speed limit, which involves protocol to avoid frightening animals and maintaining a speed limit of no greater than six miles-per-hour  when going around curves or down hills.
It’s an interesting time capsule for someone born in 1982, when cars were well-established on the road and horses were mostly confined to stables and pastures.  
And, depending on which side of the political line you straddle, some would argue there is still an automobile problem.
Or, when looking at the whole picture, several automobile problems.
I’ll leave that debate to everyone else, however.
Anyhow, a big hat tip to Mr. Webb for bringing this to my attention.
It’s hard to imagine a time period when women were (supposedly) afraid to leave the house in a horse and buggy because of (alleged) drunkards roaring down the streets at no greater than 15 miles-per-hour, causing chaos.
Then again, my descendants will probably say the same thing when they stumble across a historical tidbit from this time period.