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TIL [Today I Learned] In the entire state of Ohio in 1895, there were only two cars on the road, and the drivers of these two cars crashed into each other.

The source provided is All Fun and Games which itself cites

The story appears there on page 234, but it doesn't seem like a reliable source.

The claim also appears in an advert in Life Magazine, 24 Nov 1967.

Were there exactly two cars in Ohio in 1895 and did they crash into each other?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 11 down vote accepted

I doubt you will find a definitive answer to this question, as Ohio did not even require vehicles to be registered until 1905, so there would be no way to know definitively how many operating motor vehicles there were in 1895.

However, if anything, I would suspect that there were no operating motor vehicles in Ohio in 1895.

Wikipedia cites a study by L. Scott Bailey which includes extensive research into early motor vehicles. What is likely to be the first American-made gasoline powered vehicle was being driven around Ohio in 1891, but there was only one; no one else wanted to buy one. By 1895, the car was no longer being used on the road.

Lambert was convinced that he had a workable engine to power his three-wheel carriage and he set forth specifications and a price of $550 in a sales brochure which was mailed during the first part of February of 1891. Later that month, the automobile was running with the new stirrup-type steering on the main street of Ohio City. ... Although the letters of inquiry continued, no sales contracts were signed for the Lambert. Lambert soon realized that there was no sales potential for his automobile.

(Originally quoted from Bailey, L. Scott, "Historic Discovery: 1891 Lambert, New Claim for America's First Car", Antique Automobile magazine, Vol. 24, No. 5, Oct–Nov 1960, p. 343).

The first sales of commercially available cars were made by the Duryeas Brothers, in 1896. As such, it seems unlikely that one, let alone two, people owned motor vehicles in Ohio in 1895.

According to the Ohio History Central web site, Lambert's vehicle was involved in an automobile accident, in Ohio City, which they claim is the first recorded auto accident in history. However, the vehicle collided with a tree, not another car, and happened in 1891, when Lambert was still driving around Ohio City trying to sell his prototype. It's possible that the claim in question is a misrepresentation of this earlier accident.

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Certainly it is QED that the photo in the email is not of the original accident. In the email I have seen there is no disclaimer that it isn't the original accident. The above photo shows vehicles typical of the era - a long way different to the email photo that I've seen (circa mid-late 1920's)Email image attached

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I just received an email with the 2-car collision purported to be dated 1895, so I did a little digging.

It seemed obvious to me that the two cars in the photo didn't look anything like those that were produced in the 1890's.

Here's what I found:

enter image description here

That's QED AFAIC

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1  
Welcome to Skeptics!. Your argument needs a bit more work before it is "QED". To start with, please include a reference to where you found this image. You seem to be arguing that the photo in the 1967 Time magazine, of two vehicles about the collide, is inaccurate, but that is a strawman. That is clearly a mock-up/re-enactment (what's the chance there was an old camera on a crane photographing the exact moment?). Disproving the photo is of the scene doesn't disprove the accident didn't happened. –  Oddthinking May 10 at 2:53

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