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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Topics:  Locomobile


The New York Times
February 17, 1900

Without a Driver It Backs Recklessly Into Broadway, Snaps Off a Lamppost, and Injures a Man.

Who or what started it isn't exactly a matter of record.  It may have been the three small boys vaguely described by the prisoner, or an ambitious longing on the part of the locomobile to advertise its maker just as its electric-driven prototype did in Union Square a month ago, or the fact that it was a companion to the locomobiles nightly driven "'Round New Yotk in Eighty Minutes" on the stage of Koster & Bial's, may have determined it to get 'round New York in slightly less time.

Ambitious as its start was, it didn't cover any considerable portion of Manhattan, but its half block career put some decided results to its credit.  There is one less locomobile and a lamppost has prematurely retired from active business, while the New York Hospital has a new patient whose injuries include a scalp wound, contusions of the head, a lacerated wound of the right leg, and internal injuries.

Joseph H. McDuffee, a brother of "Eddie," the bicycle rider, and employed by the American Locomobile Company, rode up to the stage door of Koster & Bial's, in Thirty-fifth Street, in a locomobile yesterday afternoon.  Reversing the levers so that the machine could not be started forward he left it in the street.  While he was inside preparing the theatre's two locomobiles for their night's stage trip around the town his own outside decided to go on a jaunt of its own.  It started backward toward Broadway, at first keeping close to the curbing, but as its speed increased to a twenty-mile clip its course became more irregular.

Policeman Tyndall of the Broadway squad, at Thirty-fifth street, saw it coming.  A Broadway car and three heavy wagons were then at Broadway and Thirty-fifth Street.

"Look out!  Look out!  Clear the way there!" yelled Tyndall as the locomobile came on its wiggling course headed uncertainly toward the middle of Broadway.

People dodged uneasily about or stopped, uncertain in just what direction safety lay.  An elderly man crossing Broadway made for the lamppost at the northwest corner of Thirty-fifth Street, but the locomobile, swerving at a sharp angle to its course, took to the sidewalk, caught the man, flinging him ten feet away, and then, gathering itself together like a charger of old, it steamed down on the lamppost.  There were a smashing of wood, a cloud of steam, a shower of iron fragments.,and a total wreck; the locomobile's parts littered the corner.  An ambulance took the injured man, who was Joseph A. Adams of 694 Tenth Avenue, to the New York Hospital, where it was said that his condition was not serious.  Later the police arreted the operator, Joseph H. McDuffee of Seventy-sixth Street and Broadway.  He was held in the Thenderloin Station to await the result of Adams's injuries.  He usually operates one of the locomobiles in the Dewey arch scene at the concert hall, but last night another man took his place.

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