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America on the Move
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Winton touring car
Catalog #: 312831, Accession #: 167685
Currently on display
From the Smithsonian Collection

In the spring and summer of 1903, H. Nelson Jackson completed the first transcontinental automobile trip in this car. Jackson, a physician from Burlington, Vermont, was on vacation in San Francisco and made a bet at a gentlemen's club that a car could endure the grueling trip through the rugged West, where there were virtually no roads, and across the East in less than 90 days. He purchased a slightly used Winton touring car, hired mechanic Sewall Crocker to accompany him, stocked up on supplies, and took off for New York City. The trip took 64 days, including breakdowns, delays while waiting for parts to arrive, and hoisting the Winton up and over rocky terrain and mudholes. Jackson and Crocker were hailed as heroes and inspired a generation of automobile enthusiasts. Their much-publicized journey caused people to think about the possibilities of long-distance auto travel, and think of cars as an alternative to railroads.

Physical Description

Touring car made without top or doors. Tonneau (rear seat) removed by original owner to make room for cargo. Red with black trim and brass fittings. Original leather upholstery. 11' 10" L x 5' 7" W x 5' 7" H

Date Made:
California, Idaho, New York
Gift of H. Nelson Jackson

At the dawn of the twentieth century, the usefulness of automobiles-their power, mobility and flexibility-was greatly limited by the condition of rural roads. Very few roads were paved, and flimsy bridges were designed for horses and carriages. The few improvements made at the urging of rural Americans and bicycle riders consisted of grading and gravel. Road grading, paving, bridges, signage, and other improvements were virtually nonexistent in the West. These obstacles, combined with the mechanical unreliability of many cars, caused some people to doubt whether long-distance auto travel was practical. Other motorists had tried unsuccessfully to cross the country before H. Nelson Jackson decided that he could do it.

The success of the Jackson-Crocker trip astonished many and made headlines throughout the nation. It gave Americans the desire to make long-distance auto travel commonplace. The trip inspired several imitators and-in the next 10 to 20 years-attempts to break the time record for cross-country motoring, road surveys in the West, construction of a coast-to-coast highway, transcontinental trips by motorcycles and trucks, and hordes of autocampers on vacation in the West with Model Ts and tents. By 1925, a system of numbered highways blanketing the country in a grid, from north to south and east to west, had been mapped out. Although hard-surfaced roads were not common until the 1930s, the Jackson-Crocker trip gave American road and car enthusiasts a vision that carried them through decades of rapid development, intense efforts and high emotions as they broke down obstacles. By the early 1920s, the West was a new frontier populated by motorists who followed in the path of H. Nelson Jackson and Sewall Crocker.

Related People, Places, and Events
Winton Motor Carriage Company, Cleveland, Ohio

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