That Carriage is Horseless!

05 Dec
G.V.L. Meyer (LOC)

G.V.L. Meyer (LOC) (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)

Whenever a discussion arises about who had what first, there is seldom unanimous agreement. Just who did have Canada’s first automobile? Well, maybe that depends on the definition of an automobile.

The “first” distinctness might belong to Father Belcourt who had a steam-propelled vehicle when he was serving at Prince Edward Island. It was demonstrated at a garden party in 1866 and the Charlottetown Examiner reported, “and with wonder and delight it was observed steaming away for half a mile on the road and back again at a fast speed.”

Another “first” automobile was called a “horseless carriage.” It was an electric car built for F. B. Fetherstonhaugh, K.C., by Dickson’s of Toronto, and appeared on the streets on December 5, 1893. It could travel at a speed of 15 m.p.h. And go 15 miles before its batteries needed recharging.

It seems clear that the first Canadian-owned gasoline car was purchased by Colonel John Moodie of Hamilton, Ontario, on April 2, 1898. It was a “Winton” and looked like a horse-drawn buggy with the engine in the rear. There were spikes around the end of the car to keep people from climbing on board. Colonel Moodie liked to be first in everything. He owned the first bicycle in Canada, a Bayliff-Thomosin high-wheeler in 1878, and the first motorboat which he displayed at Hamilton Bay in 1895.

Cars in British Columbia and the Maritime were driven on the left-hand side of the road until 1920-1922, as they are in Britain and parts of Europe. Then they fell in line with the other Canadian provinces which always drove on the right.

The custom of driving on the left came from olden days when knights travelled the countryside on horseback. They wore swords on the left, so the rode on the left side of the roads to be in a better position to draw their swords quickly with their right arms. Driving on the right-hand side of the roads in North America evolved from the days of the covered wagons. The lead man walked to the left of the horses, holding the bridle with his right hand. right-handed, then, set the traffic pattern of two continents.


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11 responses to “That Carriage is Horseless!

  1. lupingirl1973

    December 6, 2012 at 1:34 am

    Reblogged this on Southerners in the Great White North and commented:
    This is a really interesting post…particularly the part explaining why we drive on one side of the road or the other.

    • tkmorin

      December 6, 2012 at 7:39 pm

      I know, eh?! I got a kick out of that too.
      Thanks for the comment and the visit!

  2. angrygaijin

    December 5, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    That is really interesting!! I had no idea where the whole right/left side of the road stuff came from….or even that there was a time in Canadian history in which people drove on the left!

    I wonder why Japan drives on the left then..??

    • tkmorin

      December 5, 2012 at 8:30 pm

      Ummmm … I didn’t know they did. I’ll try to find out about that … If you find out first, let me know, ok? And thanks for the visit and time to comment! 🙂

  3. dcmontreal

    December 5, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    Sometimes i feel like I’m still driving one of those old ones!!!
    Thought you’d like this:

    • tkmorin

      December 5, 2012 at 1:21 pm

      :). LOL. And the post quoted here is very interesting as well! Thanks!

  4. Alice

    December 5, 2012 at 11:45 am

    I never knew the reason for driving on one side of the road or the other. Fascinating!

    • tkmorin

      December 5, 2012 at 12:31 pm

      Yeah, kinda cool, isn’t it? Glad you enjoyed it!

  5. WM

    December 5, 2012 at 11:25 am

    I have found here an interesting explanation of the custom of driving on the left; thank you.

    • tkmorin

      December 5, 2012 at 12:33 pm

      Thanks! There are so many reasons for things that don’t apply anymore … And I love hunting them down! 🙂


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