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Topics of the Times

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Topics of the Times

The New York Times
January 27, 1900


That ingenious resident of Long Island to whom credit was given yesterday for having constructed in 1866 "the first automobile that was successfully run as a public conveyance" will apparently have to be content with whatever fame there is in recognition as not the first to demonstrate the practicability of this kind of vehicle, but the first to do it in America. A Brooklyn reader of The Times has sent us a page from The Mechanics' Magazine and Register of Inventions, published at 35 Wall Street in 1834, and containing an illustrated description of a steam omnibus which for some time before had been conveying passengers between Finsbury Square and Pentonville, London. The picture shows a far from ill-looking covered conveyance, with the machinery resting on the rear wheels, well out of the way, and the accompanying text declares that the conveyance had not only done its work safely, but had been a considerable source of profit to its inventor. Painted on the side of this—perhaps—oldest of automobiles was the curious name "Autopsy." That was a title hardly likely to inspire possible passengers with cheerful thoughts, and why it was chosen is certainly a mystery. But "autopsy" is a queer word, anyhow, and rarely, indeed, finds itself employed in service for which its etymology fits it. A steam carriage comes about as near to being an "autopsy" as does the dismemberment of a dead body.

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