Old Missoula

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1901 - Missoula's First Auto

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First Cars Appear On Streets

After what was described as “long and anxious expectation,” Missoula’s first automobile arrived in the city April 17, 1901.

The “modern conveyance” arrived from an eastern factory for the Missoula Mercantile Co. and “speedy work” was started immediately to put the machine in condition for road use within a few days.

Manager Joseph Menard of the Mercantile Implement Department “had eagerly awaited the arrival of the auto which he has set aside as his own particular charge.” The Missoulian of April 18, 1901 reported.

Although the make of the auto was not given, it was described as “of the most modern manufacture, and so handsome in its architectural design that even though automobiles were numerous in town would the particular beauty that arrived be admired as something to be proud of.”

Apparently the second auto to arrive in Missoula was one ordered from a Milwaukee factory by Frank Smith of City Livery for rental purposes. The vehicle arrived in the city May 14, 1901.

The Missoulian reported: “Its shiny and well varnished sides make it an object of fright for high spirited horses, but this will soon be overcome, and the success expected for the machine will make them objects of common use before long.

“Mr. Smith states that a speed of 20 miles an hour can easily be attained without danger. The method of propelling the machinery is a gasoline steam engine. This is ingeniously concealed in the bed of the carriage box.” The car was controlled by a hand lever.


It was announced that D. H. Peet, who had visited the factory in Milwaukee and learned how to drive the vehicle, would be in charge of the machine.


The article above appeared in the Missoulian-Sentinel Centennial Edition in 1960.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 07 June 2016 18:13