Tag Archives: cabman

Reckless Drivers – Speeding on St. John’s streets

Archival Moment

April 20, 1903


H.D. Reid's automobile at Cabot Tower, Signal Hill, St. John's, NL, 1908

H.D. Reid’s automobile at Cabot Tower, Signal Hill, St. John’s, NL, 1908

It was on April 20, 1903 that the first two cars were imported into Newfoundland by Robert G. and Harold D. Reid. The Reid family was one of the wealthiest in the colony. At the time they owned the Reid fleet of ships, the Newfoundland Railway and were the holders of large land, timber, and mineral concessions in the colony.

A few weeks later on May 4, 1903 , Robert G. Reid’s “Thomas Flyer” became the first gasoline driven automobile  to be operated in Newfoundland, when a Mr. Stewart, one of the Reid staff,  took the car for a short drive  in St. John’s. The St. John’s newspaper the Evening Telegram reported that the car:

 “made its trial trip in the West End this morning and was the object  of curiosity to all who saw  it speeding up the promenade and down the southside.”

The following week the Telegram, on the occasion of Harold D Reid’s initial operation of his vehicle, reported:

“It did not go fast through the city, but got up to a speed of about 12 miles an hour in some places on the road. The vehicle is a four wheeler and cost Mr. Reid landed here $1600.00. It is run by a gasoline motor. It is called a Locomobile…”

Not everyone wanted to share the road with these new “autos.”  In the city cabmen and farmers complained about the noise of the ‘autos’ that tended to make their horses skittish.  It was also true that many of the good citizens of St. John’s were also reluctant to share the streets with autos.

The editorial writer for the St. John’s newspaper, “The Workman”, on August 2, 1918 declared in a bold headline, “Reckless Autoists” that:

The life of the average pedestrian in the City (St. John’s) these days is one of perpetual peril. Let him attempt to cross a street, in broad daylight, and he is lucky if some auto doesn’t come around  the corner, at a rate of 15 miles an hour, and just miss him by a scant foot, while the chauffeur glowers at him as much to say “Get off the earth you lobster. What right have you to be on the street?”

The newspaper continued that the car was here to stay but that the police should be diligent in convicting those that exceeded eight miles an hour.   He wrote:

 “The auto has come to stay off course. But a lot of haughty daring drivers seem to forget that the pedestrian was here first.  Even he has a right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” The police should take the number of any auto driver  who goes around the corner faster than eight miles an hour, and the magistrate should soak him the limit every time.”

The number of cars imported into Newfoundland continued to increase; by 1925 there were 952 cars and 102 commercial vehicles. Upon joining Confederation Newfoundland boasted 9,022 cars and 4,743 commercial vehicles. Today in Newfoundland and Labrador there are more vehicles on the roads than there are people living in the province with almost 633,000 cars and trucks. There are about 500,000 people living in the province.

Recommended Archival Collection:  The Rooms holds hundreds of photographs of cars go on line and take a look.  Did you know that you can date your photographs based on  the model of cars that appear in photograph.

Recommended Reading: Motor Vehicles, Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador, Volume Three.


A St. John’s horse went into hysterics

Archival Moment

Motor cars begin to displace horses

September 9, 1914

There was much excitement in St. John’s on September 9, 1914 with crowds gathering, all scrambling to get the best view of the first annual work horse parade that was ever held in the city. The parade held under the auspices of the Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and under the distinguished patronage of His Excellency the Governor and Lady Davidson took place and was described as “a decided success.”

Upwards of 130 horses were entered into the parade that looped past the post office along Water Street to McBride’s Hill, thence to Duckworth Street and up Cochrane Street to Government House grounds where the exhibition was held.

The parade was headed by the Salvation Army’s fine brass band that “presented a very attractive and novel sight, the horses being decorated with patriotic colours.”

For many the parade was seen as a distraction from the seriousness of the conversation about the ‘Great War’ that had been called a month earlier.

The local newspapers reported:

“Citizens from every point of vantage, viewed the procession as it wended its way to the exhibition grounds, (at Government House on Military Road) accompanied by an immense crowd of people who thronged the sidewalks and followed with admiration the long line of horses from different classes”

On the field at Government House the animals were taken to their allotted spaces and the judging was done by some of the leading citizens, the gentlemen and ladies of the town, including his Excellency and Lady Davidson, the Premier and Lady Morris.

Judges had to choose the best horses in a number of categories including; “Heavy Draft Horses”, won by “Ben” driven by J. Morrisey; the “Truck Horse” that had to driven and owned by truckmen was won by “Charlie ” owned by John Fowler;   “The Express and Delivery Horses” category was won by “Bruce”, owned by M. Fleming; “The Cab Horses”, category was won by “Stella” owned by   A. Symonds. There were also categories for farm horses, ponies and an old horse category.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) that was established in Newfoundland in November 1888 was always seeking new ways of bring attention to their cause.

Motor Car or Horse

The parade of horses was in September 1914 a success but because of the Great War (1914-1918) what may have been a grand tradition was interrupted after only one year.

The parade also stands as a symbolic divide between the old and the new. It was in 1914 that motor cars or automobiles began to take the place of the horse. The shift from horse to motor car was so evident in St. John’s that the Editor of the Twillingate Sun in July 1914 felt obliged to write an editorial about the phenomena.

The Editor noted that the first motor car had arrived in Twillingate owned by Mr. Ashbourne’s had brought with it:

“considerable criticism, and naturally there are some old folk who can see no use in such contraptions as automobiles. There are also the owners of horses who, unused to such things, easily see in an automobile a terrifying sight.”

The Twillingate man cautioned in 1914 that it was inevitable that the horse would be displaced by the motor car. He wrote:

“Now although horse owners, (with the exception of Mr. POND, whose horse Dick, regards automobiles with contempt and indifference,) have their kick, they are not the first. A St. John’s horse went into hysterics when the streetcars first started, and no doubt the cars were valiantly cussed by the drivers, but the horses got used to them, and ours will do the same. …..”

Recommended Archives: Search the Rooms Archives online database for descriptions of our archival records and to view thousands of digital photographs. Click the image to begin your search.  https://www.therooms.ca/collections-research/our-collections Try this in the search bar type Horse.

Recommended: Support the work of the Newfoundland Pony Society: Read more: https://newfoundlandpony.com/

Recommended Web Site: Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: http://www.spcanl.com/