Why your people in PEI didn’t drive cars in the early 1900s

There must have been a blue moon in the sky Monday. I read the Driving section in the Montreal Gazette about cars and trucks — something I have never done — and I found a resource about the history of Prince Edward Island, which is almost as rare. Both came together in the article, P.E.I. was last to allow the horseless carriage.

I was surprised to learn that, in the early 1900s, automobiles were banned from the roads of PEI. Islanders thought cars would scare horses, the roads were too narrow, and the car was a “foolish fad.”

‘Ban the Automobile’ is available for sale directly from the author.

A book about this little known aspect of the province’s past has been written by Rudy Croken, a 40-year member of the P.E. I. Antique Car Club and its current president.

Ban the Automobile: Instrument of Death — The History of the Early Automobile on Prince Edward Island 1900-1919 was released earlier this summer, and it outlines the contentious history of the car on the Island.

The author said about the car, “It was called many things: a death-dealing machine, terror wagons, devil wagons and, as part of the title, instrument of death.”

The first gasoline-powered car arrived in 1905. By 1908 there were just seven cars, but they caused such an uproar, said Mr. Croken, that the legislature voted unanimously to ban them. That ban remained in place for eight years, making international headlines. It was repealed in 1913.

If you wonder what your ancestors in PEI thought about the ban, it is very likely they were against it. Following the 1913 repeal, 90 percent of Islanders voted to retain the ban in a plebiscite.

The ban was lifted entirely in 1919.

The book is available directly from the author for $25 plus shipping. Email him at rcrocken@pei.sympatico.ca or call him at 902-836-3897.

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2 Responses to Why your people in PEI didn’t drive cars in the early 1900s

  1. I remember as a young child, driving with my grandfather on very narrow red dirt roads, where the trees grew right to the road, and all the corners were blind. When we came up near a corner he had to beep the horn in case there was a horse and buggy coming from the other direction, and that would warn the driver of the buggy to rein in the horses. For years, I thought that was the proper way to approach a corner. THe red dust would fly and cover everything.

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