is the heart of auto show season, when automakers and
dealers around the country display their newest wares.
Here in Virginiaís Hampton Roads region, this
tradition is well into its second century. So itís
worth taking a quick look back at the sophomore year of
the local auto show in Norfolk, Va., in 1913, and how it
differed from those of today. Back then, most people
still had to rely on railroads, streetcars, ferries and
horses for transport. The thought of coming and going on
your own schedule must have seemed like the ultimate
course, having transportation after which you didnít
have to shovel was especially welcome. It was so welcome
that organizers held a funeral for horse-drawn
seriously. They did.
year, the show opened with an automobile parade, the
first one ever held in Norfolk, led by a five-ton
Standard Oil truck that was, according to The
Virginian-Pilot, "carrying a poor old decrepit
horse hitched to a broken-down conveyance of years ago
and the truck decorated with black crepe depicting the
passing of the noble horse and his reign."
hearse was followed by trucks from various commercial
firms, then a car carrying the mayor, followed by the
local auto dealers and finally, local auto enthusiasts,
who were referred to as autoists.
mock funeral for the horse was held. Music played as the
last rites were read.
am not making this up.
The Pilot caught automotive fever. It obtained its first
press car, a 1913 Michigan, and photographed the paperís
unidentified automobile editor behind the wheel.
the big feature of the show was the nightly performance
by Daring Daro, "who claims to be the only living
man allowing a motor truck or passenger automobile
loaded to its full capacity to pass over any part of his
the show, as people examined cars with the newest
technology, such as electric lights and self-starters,
the former Ringling Brothers strongman allowed a Waverly
Electric car, with five passengers aboard, to drive
across his neck and back. He was scheduled to repeat the
stunt with a 7,000-pound Cadillac.
ó not making this up.
next day, it was reported that as the Cadillac touring
car drove over Daro, the heavy car with
"non-skid" tires " Ö brought the blood
to the surface when the rear wheels passed over."
Pilot quoted the strongman as saying, "No more
tires of that type. I got more than I bargained for. A
smooth tire is not so bad, but it is excruciating agony
when the lumps grind into my flesh."
didnít stop Daro from going through with another
performance, this time with a much lighter Case motor
car. It weighed a mere 2,700 pounds.
the next night, a two-ton truck was on his agenda,
followed by two cars that would drive over him, one
after another, at 10 mph.
strange as all of this seems, like some distant, dusty
fantasy, there are elements of the 1913 auto show that
are no different today.
next time you attend a new car show, you will admire a
Mercedes-Benz, Lexus or Audi, just as those in 1913
admired the Pierce Arrow. You will look longingly at the
Porsche 911 or Jaguar F-Type, just as show-goers once
lusted for a Mercer, Americaís first sports car.
there will be no parade, no mock horse funerals, no
strong man being run over by cars and trucks, there will
be something better: new cars and trucks, and the dreams
they bring along with them.