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America on the Move
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Faceplate from homemade turn signal

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Faceplate from homemade turn signal
Smithsonian Institution, Photo by Richard Strauss, Negative #: 2003-19266


This object appears in the following sections:

Americans Adopt the Auto:
Americans Adopt the Auto — Fixing Cars

Homemade turn signal
Homemade turn signal

Bell Gasoline Saver

Homemade turn signal
Catalog #: 1989.0571.01, Accession #: 1989.0571
Currently on display
From the Smithsonian Collection
This turn signal was a one-off invention of Oscar J. Simler, who invented and patented a similar turn signal in 1929. Turn signals were not offered to consumers purchasing cars until 1939, and they were more widespread in the late 1940s, when large numbers of car manufacturers offered them to consumers.
Physical Description
7 1/2 H x 9 1/4 W x 2 1/4 D, plus wiring; metal box in partial quatrefoil shap with five glass lenses for electric lights signalling stop, slow, left turn, right turn. Two mechanisms that drove the signals and a lever shift.
Date Made:
about 1929
Florida, Ohio
Gift of Eleanor M. Rhue
As more and more Americans took to the wheel, they often tinkered with their cars so that they more effectively suited their needs, or to overcome early automobiles' very obvious limitations. A users could buy kits that converted Model T's into a stationary engine, lights, turn signals, anti-theft devices, and a host of other products that the makers of auto accessories touted as essential and useful. Although not all of them worked, or were succesful, some of these early add-ons, became standard features on later cars.
Related People, Places, and Events
Oscar J. Simler

Eleanor Rhue
Donor gave her father's invention to the museum in 1989

Oscar J. Simler

Place of Invention
Sebring, Ohio

Location of Donor
Largo, Florida

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