The First Automobile in Denton, Texas
The First Automobile
The first automobile in Denton Texas was owned by Gentry Thompson. The year, make and model of the car are unclear. Based on our research the year is probably between 1900 and 1903.
Some newspaper accounts claim it was a Stanley steamer. Another account claims it had a single cylinder gasoline engine, which would definitely exclude the steamer possibility. Who knows, maybe he had a second car. And maybe, memories are unclear.
What is certainly clear is this awesome photo that was saved for us to enjoy!
The First Car Guy
Gentry Thompson was a gin owner from Denton, Texas in the late 1890s. He was described as a skilled mechanic who also "fancied diamonds, cars and his pet bulldog."
Mr. Thompson's interest in automobiles was more than a mere fancy, he was a serious automobilist. He was quite keen on wearing the proper driving attire. One newspaper account says that Thompson was "shocked when a lady he took to Krum did not wear a duster." Dusters were light linen coats that were worn while driving. Gauntlets, goggles and hats were also part of the attire.
Another newspaper article described the typical maneuvers that horse and carriage drivers performed when they spotted Mr. Thompson steaming towards them. They would pull off the road to ensure plenty of distance between the horses and Mr. Thompson's noisy machine. If there were women passengers on the carriage, they would get off and stand at a safe distance until the mechanical contraption passed by. I suppose horses were used to trains at the time, but the arrival of automobiles spooked the heck out of them.
Steam or Gasoline
If I were to take a guess, I would say that it probably is a steam powered vehicle simply due to the fact that Thompson was a gin owner. The cotton gins in that day used steam engines for power. Thompson was probably a steam engine wizard out of necessity. So I would imagine having a steam powered automobile would be quite a novelty for him. But that's just my guess.
However, I think we have more evidence that it was a steam powered automobile. Specifically, a 1901 Steamobile, produced by the Steamobile Company of Keene, New Hampshire.
The photos in this section show slightly different versions of the Steamobile.
The top photo is from the Horseless Age magazine, dated January 1901. Because the magazine was published in January, I am assuming that the automobile depicted is a 1900 model.
The second photo shows a 1901 Steamobile.
In comparing Thompson's automobile to the 1901 Steamobile photo, we find some very strong similarities. The ninety degree tiller steering arm on the right side, the rounded compartment on the front of the vehicle, the grip handles on both sides of the front panel, the shape and position of the front and rear fenders, and finally, the triangular shape of the front suspension.
Based on these photos, I think we have a strong case that Mr. Gentry Thompson owned a 1901 Steamobile.
On a side note, if you're like me, you're probably wondering what that front compartment is on the automobile. The Horseless Age magazine states that the compartment houses an air reservoir. It also came with a rubber tube that allows you to air up the tires. Quite convenient!
The first automobile arrived in Denton between 1900 and 1903 and was owned by Gentry Thompson. The year, make and model of the automobile are unfortunately, unclear. However, based on our research, we believe it to be a 1901 Steamobile, produced by the Steamobile Company of Keene NH.
If you have any additional information about Gentry Thompson or can enlighten us about the year, make and model of the automobile, please send us an email or use the feedback form below.
The short description of Mr. Thompson above and the rest of this article are based on the photo description and several newspaper articles recalling Denton's automobile beginnings.
Gentry Thompson and Dog in Automobile, Photograph, ca. 1900; (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth12358/ : accessed March 24, 2015), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Denton Public Library, Denton, Texas.
1900 Steamobile, Keene Automobile Co., Keene NH.
Horseless Age: The Automobile Trade Magazine, Volume 7 #14, Jan 2, 1901
1901 Steamobile, Keene Automobile Co., Keene NH.
Early American Automobiles