Monday, June 28, 2021

A road trip Pierce-Arrow style back in 1912

Road trips are back on the agenda for many this summer after a year of caution. Although driving cross-country isn't considered especially adventuresome these days, that was not the case in 1912 when Chariton's Will and Marcia Eikenberry and daughter, Ruth, age 4, piled into their new Pierce-Arrow with her parents, Charles and Olive Murray, of Denver, and headed for Indiana during late May.

The Eikenberrys had taken delivery of the new vehicle, described as a seven-passenger touring car, during January. This was its first major outing.

For those who keep track of such things, the trip out to Indianapolis took two and a half days; the return trip, three and a half --- including an overnight stop and morning filled with business in Chicago. The vehicle consumed 140 gallons of gasoline and a quart of oil during the journey.

Here's an account of the trip as published in The Chariton Leader of June 20, 1912.


Mr. and Mrs. Will Eikenberry returned last week from their trip to Indiana by automobile. At 7:30 on the morning of May 26, with their guests from Denver, they passed the court house in Chariton in their new Pierce-Arrow car. Following the Blue Grass road through Ottumwa, the party stopped at Fairfield at noon, crossed the river at Ft. Madison and reached Bushnell, Ill., that evening, 196 miles out. The next day by noon, they were in Peoria, and by night in Danville, near the eastern boundary of Illinois, a run of 190 miles. The third day, a little after noon, by an easy journey, although through a pouring rain, they were in Indianapolis, 476 miles from the starting point.

After the international races, the journey was continued to Connersville and Richmond, in eastern Indiana, 70 miles from Indianapolis, where relatives were visited for a few days.

The return trip was from Indianapolis via Lafayette and Chicago, that distance 200 miles, being the first day's run. After the transaction of some business in Chicago, Mr. Eikenberry turned his "Pullman" westward again and reached Mendota the first night (west of Chicago). The second day was a record breaker, the 225 miles of Illinois and Iowa, between Mendota and Colfax, being traveled in less than 12 hours actual running time. After a night at the Colfax Hotel, the pilgrims had a leisurely ride to Chariton by way of Des Moines and Indianola, having been gone exactly 14 days, and traveled as shown by the speedometer on the car, 1408 miles.

Among the interesting features of the trip is the fact that no repairs of any kind were required on the machine, excepting the outlay of one hour to replace a broken brace on the trunk rack. The tires came back absolutely punctureless and containing the same air they contained at starting. Will insists that this is proof of the superior quality of Iowa air over all others.

The tourists agree that the real beauty of the country is not seen from the windows of railway trains. They also say that along the "Blue Grass" and "River to River" roads, Iowa shows by far the best wheat and meadows seen; that Illinois cornfields, both in acreage and quality are entitled to the premium, as are the Illinois farm buildings; and that the Indiana gravel roads are the best in the country, especially in wet weather. The wheat crop in Indiana is almost a complete failure, owing to a heavy fall of sleet and ice late in the spring, and much of it will not be worth harvesting while the acreage of wheat in Illinois is surprisingly small.

The only accidents that occurred during the entire trip was the unintentional killing of a careless rooster and two insane hens in Illinois, which at different points insisted on crossing the road directly under the wheels of the machine.

The operator of the car reports that uniform and mutual consideration was shown by automobilists and drivers of horses throughout the trip, with one exception, the only "road hog" encountered being a smart youth, who with his girl, a pair of hoses and a buggy, deliberately obstructed for some time a narrow highway near Indianola. 

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