G.W. Hawkins Houston Automobile Pioneer
The Year of the Automobile
1901 was the year of the automobile in Houston, Texas.
On December 8, 1901, the Houston Post reported "Automobiles have come to Houston . . . for more than a month now the agile, swift-moving steam machines have been dashing back and forth over the downtown Houston Streets."
The Left Handed Fishing Club, a social and charitable organization, was credited with owning the first automobile in Houston. They purchased an Oldsmobile in March of 1901.
Beyond 1901, one name stands out among the rest during the early Houston automobile age. That name is G.W. Hawkins.
In 1902, George Wickton Hawkins went to Michigan to purchase a 1902 Oldsmobile Curved Dash Runabout and brought it back to Houston. That was only the beginning of his plans.
G.W. Hawkins was certainly a pioneer in Houston's early automobile age and definitely a man all Houston and Texas auto enthusiasts should know about.
Ed. Although I have not seen the source for this bit of history, but apparently in 1897 Montgomery Ward build two electric wagons and took them on a train tour through Texas. Houston was one of the stops, as well as Dallas. The electric automobiles were apparently unloaded and driven in town as a publicity stunt.
An Automotive Businessman
G.W. Hawkins not only owned one of the first automobiles in Houston, he was also instrumental to the success of the automobile in Houston.
In the same year that Mr. Hawkins brought his Oldsmobile to Houston he also started the Hawkins Automobile and Gas Engine Company.
It has been a challenge to get a complete picture of all of Mr. Hawkins business ventures, but over the span of at least twenty years he was associated with a minimum of four businesses, as noted below.
- Hawkins Automobile and Gas Engine Company
- Alamo Auto Company
- Hawkins-Halff Company
- Hawkins Auto Supply Company
As mentioned earlier, the Hawkins Automobile and Gas Engine Company was founded in 1902. The incorporators were C. Bender, Jr., A. I. Saliers and George W. Hawkins. Mr. Hawkins was the president of the company.
The Alamo Auto Company appears to be an intriguing partnership with G.A.C. Halff, a San Antonio automobile pioneer. G.A.C. Halff was President and Mr. Hawkins was vice president. One of makes sold at the Alamo Auto Company was Stoddard-Dayton.
The Hawkins-Halff Company, founded in 1912, was yet another intriguing partnership with G.A.C. Halff. This business seems to be an upscale dealership and garage that sold Pierce-Arrow automobiles. Mr. Hawkins was president, G.A.C. Halff was vice president and Cecil H. Hawkins was secretary and treasurer. Mr. Hawkins had a daughter named Cecil, so I believe it is safe to assume his daughter was now in the auto business. [Ed. There will be much more about this company in a future article, with photos!]
In my research I observed that after 1914, ads for the Hawkins Auto Supply Co. began to appear. It seems Mr. Hawkins got out of the automobile sales business and into the auto parts business. That makes perfect sense as all these new automobiles would need parts.
I found no more ads for Hawkins Auto Supply Co. after 1920. It appears that he transitioned from automobile businessman to serving the community.
Active in the Community
Mr. Hawkins was very involved in the Houston community.
He participated in Houston's first automobile parade in 1902. Mr. Hawkins, accompanied by his three daughters, drove his Oldsmobile in the parade. The Olds was decorated with a multitude of white roses, which earned him a third prize in the contest.
The automobile parade was part of the week long Cotton Carnival. The carnival started in 1899 and was modeled after the Louisiana Mardi Gras.
He was also a member of the the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF), a fraternal and charitable organization. He served many years as the chairman and then the superintendent of the Widows and Orphans home in Corsicana.
Mr. Hawkins was elected head of the Harris County Good Roads association in 1919. [Ed. Incidentally, the first Good Roads Convention in Texas was hosted in Houston in 1895.]
A Race Promoter
In the early days of the automobile, racing was a great way to promote automobile sales and brand recognition.
Being a keen marketer and automobile enthusiast, Mr. Hawkins helped organize Houston's first big race. The race was held on Tuesday, November 24, 1903. It was one of the official events of Houston's week long Carnival festival.
The Houston Post newspaper played up the event with grandiose Roman imagery! The newspaper headline read: "The Auto Races - To Transcend Chariot Races of Nero's Time" and "Visions of Rome in ye olden time are conjured up in a contemplation of the automobile races for this afternoon." Who would want to miss that?!
The race attracted drivers from Houston, San Antonio, Beaumont, Dallas and Galveston.
The track was set up on Harrisburg road and the start was scheduled for 3 PM sharp.
There were a total of five races:
- Five miles - Light Machines (stripped down vehicles)
- Five miles - Stock Machines
- Five miles - Free to All (open)
- Three miles - Steam Machines
- Australian Pursuit
According to the local paper the races were very successful, except for one unfortunate dog that got run over.
Mr. Hawkins would continue to be involved in local race promotion including an exploratory survey in 1905 to assess possibility of utilizing Galveston beach for race events. [Ed. It was used, in a big way!]
The complete detail of both of these events will be featured in future articles you will not want to miss.
Remembered by His Community
Mr. Hawkins moved to the Houston Heights neighborhood in 1904. His automobile must have caused a lasting impression among the community.
In 1975 the Heights neighborhood started the Heights Festival. The most popular attraction of the festival was the parade of antique vehicles up and down Heights Boulevard to commemorate the day that Mr. Hawkins drove his Oldsmobile down the street.
The Heights Festival lasted 29 years.
If you are in Houston and would like to see the Hawkins house, it is located at 1015 Heights Blvd.
According to the Houston post we saw that 1901 was the year of the automobile in Houston Texas.
We also saw that Mr. Hawkins played a major part in the early Houston automobile age by establishing several automobile businesses, promoting automobile races and leading the Harris County Good Roads association in 1919.
But That's Not All
This article touched on a few topics that will be covered in more depth in future articles.
If you have any additional information on G.W. Hawkins that you would like to share please send us an email!
Houston Heights Association