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The first automobiles to appear on the Eastern Shore of Virginia apparently caused quite a ruckus among the horse-and-carriage set. Here is an account of those early automotive days from The Eastern Shore of Virginia: 1603-1964, by Nora Miller Turman. You can find the book in area bookstores that carry an extensive collection of local titles, or here online.

Some people had seen horseless carriages, called automobiles, on visits to the city and a few were aspiring to own one early in the century. The first one was owned by Claude Nottingham of Onancock about 1906. It has been said that ladies would not go out in their carriages until the said Nottingham was consulted to see if he expected to use that horse frightening machine that day. …

Through the year 1910, the purchase of an automobile, usually made in Balitmore and brought home by steamboat, was news for the papers. … On March 17, 1906, the General Assembly approved an Act for operating automobiles. … The rate of speed was fixed at fifteen miles per hour in the open country and eight miles per hour for going around curves, up and down hills, and in villages, towns, or cities.

The driver was to watch for the approach of horseback riders and vehicles drawn by animals. If the driver or rider found his animal frightened, he was to signal the driver of the horseless carriage to stop until the frightened animal passed. If such driver were a man, he could be asked to lead the frightened animal past his horseless carriage.

If the horseless carriage driver wished to pass an animal-drawn vehicle, he was to give the signal by a bell, gong or horn and passing speed was not to exceed four miles per hour. If the animal became frightened, the driver was to get out and hold it until it became quiet, then drive his automobile past it.

Fines from $10 to $100 were imposed for failure to obey these rules.

Is it just me, or do those fines seem a little steep for the year 1910?!

–posted by Jim Duffy on Jan. 25, 2019

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