Window Onto a New World: The Curved Dash Oldsmobile

Man sits in early Ford automobile outside house while people stare through window

What looks to be an early Ford is the object of attention on the street

I found this shot over the weekend, and realized when I looked at it a little more closely at home that it may well depict a version of Henry Ford’s first car, something he completed in 1896 and called – in a nod, I assume, to the fact that it used bicycle components for its seat, tires, chain, etc. – the quadricycle. I have since learned that the car in the photo is a Curved Dash Oldsmobile. Notable for having been the first mass-produced automobile, it was produced from 1901 to 1907, with something over 19,000 being made in total.

Below is a photo of Henry Ford in a similar, earlier automobile, which had a two-stroke engine and could travel at about 20mph.

Early Ford automobile, the quadricycle, with Henry Ford driving

Henry Ford on his quadricycle; if that is a steering wheel in the reflection at left, his early machine was already old-fashioned at the point this was taken

What I find so great about this photo, however, is not just the car. It is the fact that if you look closely (and I have enlarged the relevant section below) you can see a woman holding a baby up to the window right behind the driver’s head. It would possibly have been one of the first times either had seen an actual automobile. What a different world was coming. One in which, among other things, parking would never be so easy again.

People gaze out of a window at the newest thing: the car

Gazing out at a new world (click to enlarge)