This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California. This blog is not supported by advertising, it's supported by the generosity of my patrons on Patreon. Thank you!

From Phoenix to Tucson and back in four hours in 1911

When W. F. Brong and Frisco Enright drove their car from Phoenix to Tucson and back in 4 hours 39 minutes and 49 1/2 seconds in 1911 it must have been amazing. And the old-timers must have been wondering what the world was coming to. Let's time-travel.

The world that most people knew in 1911, especially in places like Phoenix, moved at a walking pace. That is, about two miles an hour for people, and an average of four miles an hour for horses. Of course, horses could gallop up to 25 miles an hour, and trains went at about that rate, but that was an extreme. Very few people had ever seen anything go faster than that, and automobiles were now able to go double that.

It must have been amazing to see automobiles just absolutely flying by on the track at the State Fairgrounds. But the overland races, like the one to Tucson and back, must have really been something that people could relate to.

For centuries, the pace of a horse was the measure of reasonable distances. Going thirty miles in a day, from sunrise to sundown, was considered a reasonable distance. In fact, if you look at the Missions in California, they were spaced out a day's ride when they were built in the 1700 and 1800s. Of course, people could travel faster than that, but it was an expectation of a reasonable time.

So, jumping in a car in 1911 at Central and Washington and getting to Tempe in 14 minutes must have been amazing. The route, by the way, was along the Tempe Road (which is now Van Buren and then Washington which turns into Mill Avenue as it crosses the river). W. F. and Frisco crossed the river where the Mill Avenue Bridge is nowadays, although they drove across on the river bottom.

And these guys must have been tough, and more than a little bit crazy. The noise of sitting on one of these cars must have been horrific - like sitting on top of a very loud lawn mower for four hours. And even if there were paved roads (and there weren't), the ride was horribly jarring. Not to mention the constant dust. Yeah, these were tough guys.

Every once in a while I go to Tucson and back and it seems to me the most annoying thing is dealing with drivers who are driving too slow, or too fast. Or maybe it's passing trucks. My car, which is very ordinary, has power steering, cruise control, air-conditioning, stereo music, cup holders, and very comfortable shock-absorbers. The guys in 1911 didn't have the Dairy Queen by Picacho Peak to stop at, either.

Thanks for time-traveling with me. By the way, if you want to read the whole article, it's online at the Library of Congress here

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