CHATHAM TWP. – Chatham Township residents Don Davidson and Sarah Stanley will bring three of their historic automobiles to a special event Saturday, July 14 in front of the Museum of Early Trades and Crafts in Madison.
The couple’s 1899 steam-powered Locomobile, 1913 Model T Ford and 1917 Detroit Electric Car, representing the three emerging automotive technologies at the start of the 20th century, will be on display from 1 to 4 p.m. in front of the museum, 9 Main St. at Green Village Road.
Davidson and Stanley will be there to answer questions about the cars. They said visitors would be permitted to look under the hoods and to see how the motors worked.
“It’s all about sharing our history,” Stanley said, adding that the antique electric car shows that technology is not a new thing.
Early automakers first looked to steam because of the example of steam-powered locomotives, she noted. And Davidson said that from 1900 to 1905, more cars used steam power than any other fuel.
The section of Green Village Road in front of the museum will be closed for the “Carriage to Car Day” display. The rain date is Sunday, July 15.
The event is related to its exhibit, “Are We There Yet? Stories of Travel by Stagecoach and Steam.”
The exhibit tells the story of early travel in New Jersey, before the invention of the automobile, and compares that era to the high-speed travel of the 21st century.
Davidson, a mechanical engineer, said he bought his first antique car when he was 15 years old. The couple now has six: three that run on steam, two on gas and one on electricity.
Stanley said she uses the 1931 Model A Ford pickup to run errands in the Chathams, and the couple takes them to shows and tours of antique cars throughout the country.
They drove the 1913 Model T Ford, representing the Chatham Township Historical Society, in the Fourth of July parade in Chatham, and they brought the electric car to the Fishawack Festival in June.
Davidson said they are only the third owner of the 1899 steam-powered car. It was No. 221 of 250 produced in Newton, Mass. The first owner was Adelaide Bonnell of Elizabeth, N.J., who used it through 1909, then sold it in the 1940s to a collector in Union, N.J. Davidson bought it in 1986.
The Chatham Township couple also are only the third owners of two of their other antique cars.
While the 1899 Locomobile runs on steam, it needs fuel to light the boiler, Davidson said.
For their electric car, he has a special charger, which is about the size of a refrigerator, rather than the shoebox-sized chargers used for modern electric cars. The antique electric car has a range of 60 to 90 miles before it needs recharging.
Museum director Deborah Farrar Starker said the special event Saturday offers “visitors an opportunity to view these extraordinary vehicles that harken back to a time when routine travel from place to place was a major event.”
“In the late 1800s, traveling from Newark to Philadelphia by horse-drawn carriage was long, dusty, uncomfortable and monotonous,” Starker observed. “Then along came the automobile and changed everything forever.”
Saturday’s event will feature food, games and other activities for all ages, and the museum will be open for guided tours.
Stanley and Davidson also lent items for the museum exhibit, which includes what early car owners would have brought along on a trip: driving gloves, picnic basket, time piece and lap desk. Also on display are literature about early automobiles and Blue Books, sponsored by the American Automobile Association to tell drivers how to get from one city to another using railroad and trolley tracks, buildings, barns and other landmarks before paved streets and road signs became prevalent in the 1920s.
A 1984 book by a longtime Chatham Township historian, Ruth Pierson Churchill, titled “Memories Entwined With Roses” also is for sale at the exhibit. Churchill (1896-1999) was the granddaughter of Louis Mulford Noe, the first mayor of Chatham Township and owner of rose greenhouses and dairy farms in Chatham Township.
During the summer, the museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.