Posts Tagged ‘Munson gasoline-electric hybrid’

Lincoln Highway Day in La Porte Indiana

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Terri and I had an enjoyable Lincoln Highway Day in La Porte Indiana. The events surrounding the day centered on our mission to share automotive history with others.

We attended the Lincoln Highway Kiosk Dedication on the plaza in front of the Greater La Porte Chamber of Commerce at 803 Washington Street. The kiosk was developed by Indiana Lincoln Highway Association members in cooperation with a number of La Porte area sponsors.

La Porte area natives Jim Bevins and Fred Sachtleben were recognized for their tireless efforts conceptualizing and constructing the kiosk. This is an outstanding example of a community effort developing an educational resource for future generations.


Jim & Fred at La Porte, Indiana Lincoln Highway Kiosk

Jim & Fred at La Porte,
Indiana Lincoln Highway Kiosk
Copyright © 2012 Dennis E. Horvath

The interpretative panel on the north side of the kiosk depicts the impact of the Lincoln Highway in La Porte County. Two famous restaurants from the 1910’s and 1920’s still serve patrons along the highway: B & J’s American Café and Jennie Rae’s. The Hotel Rumley that paid special attention to automobile parties has been renovated into apartments. One early photo shows autos and interurbans along Lincoln Way. Other photos feature vignettes of life along the highway in the first-half of the twentieth century.

The south side interpretative panel shares the early history of the Lincoln Highway: America’s First Paved Coast-To-Coast Highway. The idea for the highway was proposed by Indiana auto entrepreneur Carl G. Fisher in September 1912. Today with our modern interstate highways it is hard to imagine what travel was like 90 years ago. At the time, less than 10% the country’s roads were paved, and suburban travel was only attempted in fair weather. These photographs and documentation provide a glimpse into development of the highway and travel across it in the early days. I still marvel at the photos and stories of motorists attempting to cross country on muddy and deeply rutted roads.


The Munson Factory

The Munson Factory
Copyright © La Porte County Historical Society

La Porte also shares an interesting link to our early automotive history with the demonstration of a Munson hybrid runabout on April 25, 1898. The Munson Company, the recognized builder of America’s first gasoline-electric hybrid automobile, was located on the south-east corner of the street, just south of the kiosk. Munson built four vehicles and demonstrated them for two years across northwest Indiana and Chicago, but failed to produce further vehicles for sale.

I enjoy being involved with groups like the Indiana Lincoln Highway Association which develop sites, materials, and events to share our auto heritage. I invite you to travel Indiana’s two Lincoln Highway routes today. Check back with the Indiana Lincoln Highway Association often for more developments regarding the Lincoln Highway in Indiana. We’re continuing to develop additional materials and events for you.

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