Today in 1903, the conclusion of the first-ever car trip from one coast of the continental United States to the other.

And this story starts, like so many other good stories have, with a bet.

In 1903 the automobile was on the rise.

It wasn’t a novelty anymore, but it also hadn’t yet become widespread.

One of the auto’s early fans was Horatio Jackson.

He had worked as a doctor in Vermont, though the 31 year old was essentially retired because his wife’s family was extremely wealthy.

Jackson was such a big car fan that, while on vacation in San Francisco, someone bet him $50 that he could drive a car from San Francisco to New York.

He took the bet.

Never mind the fact that he didn’t even own a car.

Or that he had only a bit of driving experience.

Or that the country only had about 150 miles of paved roads at the time, and no gas stations (those wouldn’t start appearing for two more years!)

Figuring that obstacles were meant to be overcome, Jackson teamed up with a mechanic named Sewell Crocker.

On Crocker’s recommendation, he bought a 1903 Winton.

The two stuffed the car they nicknamed “Vermont” with essentials: sleeping bags, tools, coats, cameras, and lots and lots of gas cans.

For some reason Jackson thought it was important that they have a dog along for the ride, and sure enough someone in Idaho offered him a bulldog, which he called Bud.

The dog wore a pair of special dog-sized goggles and Jackson said he was the one member of the team who quote “used no profanity on the entire trip.”

Their first tire blew 15 miles into the drive, and it wasn’t the last break they saw.

Sometimes they had to put rope around the wheels to keep moving, or even walk to get new parts.

One time a lady told them to go the wrong way for over 100 miles just so her family could see a car for the first time.

But even with these aggravations, Jackson, Crocker and Bud the bulldog did make progress east.

And as they did they got more and more attention from a public that was starting to think through how motor vehicles could affect their lives.

63 days after they set out from San Francisco, they made it to New York.

To win the $50 bet, Jackson had spent $8,000, which today would be like hundreds of thousands of dollars.

And by the way, he never actually collected the fifty.

Instead, he returned to Vermont with Bud.

In later life he received a number of awards for serving in World War I, as well as a ticket for breaking the 6 mile per hour speed limit in the city of Burlington.

Today in 1856, the birthday of playwright George Bernard Shaw.

The author of Pygmalion did a lot of his writing in a shed on his property in St. Albans, Hertfordshire that had several unique features.

One was that it was built on a round platform, so that he could rotate it.

The other was that he nicknamed it “London,” so that when people came by the house, his staff could get rid of them by saying, sorry, Mr. Shaw is in London.

Horatio’s Drive (PBS)


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Photo via Wikicommons