Saturday, March 5, 2016

"The First Automobile in Lake County"

Charles Fabian Blank (Elna Hazelgreen's uncle) died on March 4, 1922, of injuries he suffered when struck by a car — karmically, one might say, since his obituary in the Gazette credited him with owning the first automobile in Lake County.

2016-3-5. Charles F. Blank obit
(Click on image to enlarge)
Hobart Gazette 10 Mar. 1922.

I do not know if that claim is precisely true, but Charles certainly owned one of the first in this area. In mid-April of 1901 the Gazette reported that "Mr. Blank of Millers" had placed an order for an automobile, which at the time was as much a novelty as a seven-man bicycle. The auto in question was a steam-powered Locomobile, which, when delivered in May 1901, proved to be "a very neat affair and a successful traveler." The news from Miller was soon full of Charles Sr.'s Locomobile. In July 1901 Charles and son drove it to Valpo; Charles and wife drove it to Crown Point ("They found good roads all the way except in Crown Point"); and Charles drove himself to Chicago. By then he had become Miller's Locomobile agent.

In September, Charles Jr. drove the Locomobile to Chicago to have "several new devices" installed — and what those new devices might have been, I cannot imagine.

In October, Charles Sr. and wife (her name was Johanna) drove their Locomobile on a flying trip to Valpo, leaving Miller at one o'clock in the afternoon and returning by 6:30 p.m.!

Here is a clip of a restored Locomobile in motion, and another one from the occupant's point of view.

Additional Sources:
1900 Census.
♦ "General News Items." Hobart Gazette 19 Apr. 1901; 26 July 1901.
♦ "Miller Murmurings." Hobart Gazette 31 May 1901; 12 July 1901; 19 July 1901; 26 July 1901; 13 Sept. 1901; 11 Oct. 1901.

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