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America on the Move
Collection Exhibition Themes
Transportation in America before 1876 Community Dreams: Santa Cruz, California, 1876 Delivering the Goods: Watsonville, California, 1895 A Streetcar City: Washington, D.C., 1900 People on the Move The Connected City: New York, New York, 1920s On the School Bus: Martinsburg, Indiana, 1939 Family Camping: York Beach, Maine, 1930s Roadside Communities: Ring's Rest, Muirkirk, Maryland, 1930s The People's Highway: Route 66, 1930s-1940s Lives on the Railroad: Salisbury, North Carolina, 1927 Americans Adopt the Auto Suburban Strip: Sandy Boulevard, Portland, Oregon, 1949 City and Suburb: Chicago and Park Forest, Illinois, 1950s On the Interstate: I-10, 1956-1990 Transforming the Waterfront: San Francisco and Oakland, California, 1960-1970 Going Global: Los Angeles Introduction First to Drive across the Continent Other Early Trips
7: Crossing the Country: Somewhere in Wyoming, 1903

First to Drive across the Continent

Driving an automobile from coast to coast in 1903 was a difficult and daring achievement. H. Nelson Jackson, a physician and businessman from Burlington, Vermont, captured the nation’s attention when he and Sewall K. Crocker, a mechanic, drove from California to New York. Despite mud, washouts, breakdowns, and a lack of roads and bridges in the West, they finished their trip in 63 days. Two other motoring parties—each anxious to claim the title of first to drive across country—departed while Jackson and Crocker were en route, but could not overtake them.

Winton touring car “Vermont,” 1903
Winton touring car “Vermont,” 1903

In 1903, H. Nelson Jackson and Sewall K. Crocker completed the first motor trip across the United States in this car, which Jackson named for his home state. The men often used a block and tackle to pull the car out of mudholes. When the Winton needed repairs, they telegraphed the factory for parts and awaited delivery by railroad.

The trip began after a discussion in a San Francisco men’s club as to the feasibility of a transcontinental auto crossing. Jackson decided to give it a try. He purchased a 1903 Winton touring car, named it “Vermont,” and headed east.

Jackson and Crocker followed trails, rivers, mountain passes, alkali flats, and the Union Pacific Railroad across the West. In Idaho, Jackson acquired Bud, and the bulldog accompanied the pioneering motorists to the East Coast Bud, a bulldog, accompanied the drivers, and was featured in many news photos. After 63 days on the road, the expedition reached New York. Jackson had spent $8,000 on the trip, including hotel rooms, gasoline, tires, parts, supplies, food, and the cost of the Winton.

H. Nelson Jackson at the wheel of his Winton
H. Nelson Jackson at the wheel of his Winton
There were few roads and guideposts in the West in 1903.
H. Nelson Jackson and Sewall Crocker in a California town
H. Nelson Jackson and Sewall Crocker in a California town

Jackson and Crocker did experience some good roads on their trip, at the start of their journey in California and in the East.

Cover of The Auto Era, featuringBud the dog
Cover of The Auto Era, featuring
Bud the dog

The Winton Motor Carriage Company published details about the Jackson-Crocker cross-country trip and emphasized the car's ruggedness and reliability.

Bud the bulldog's goggles
Bud the bulldog's goggles

Churning dust irritated Bud’s eyes, and Jackson purchased this pair of goggles for him.

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