Summer's a traditional time for travel, so let's go back one hundred years ago and see how they were traveling in 1897.

Powered air flight would wait for the next decade. In France, aeronaut wannabe Clément Ader was unable to get his Avion III into the air. I think we can safely assume Avion I and Avion II had not achieved liftoff either. Air pioneers were born this year. Atchison, Kansas, gave the world Amelia Earhart in 1897. Industrialist Charles A. Levine was also born this year. Levine would become the first trans-Atlantic air passenger. Someone must have been airborne. Or some thing. Flying objects of an unknown nature were seen in the skies over Benton, Texas, and Kansas City, Missouri. Perhaps we were not alone, even then.

Water travel was one of the main options at this time, although it could prove dangerous. Sailor George Robinson passed from history when he fell overboard while serving on board the Wavertree. Two other men were luckier as they completed the first trans-Atlantic voyage to be performed by muscle and oars, rowing across in 55 days.

Train travel could provide its own kind of excitement. If you were riding the Rock Island train passing through Chikasha, Oklahoma, in October, you'd be delayed an hour or so as "Little Dick" West and the Jennings Gang attempted to blow up the train's safe with dynamite. The safe won out. Win some, lose some.

Trains, ships and theoretical planes were all right in their own way, but if you really wanted to be avant the garde, the automobile was the coming thing. It was this year that auto enthusiasts in Britain founded the Royal Automobile Club. Back in the States, Ransome E. Olds organized the Olds Motor Vehicle Company in Flint, Michigan. Most companies really did start up in garages in those days. He would go on to manufacture Reos, as well. The first Olds autos could carry four passengers at a dizzying speed of 10 miles an hour. All with a one cylinder, 6 horsepower, water-cooled engine. Ransome would turn out four this year.

And in Westfield, Massachusetts, Gilbert Loomis purchased the first automobile insurance. It cost seven dollars and fifty cents for a thousand dollars worth of coverage.

Five minutes later a telemarketer called and offered to get him a better deal on his rates. I made that last part up.


For Classical ninety-one five, this is David Minor.


© 1997 David Minor / Eagles Byte