Early car builders played the name game by Bob Karolevitz I'm having trouble identifying all the different models of autos these days � but it's nothing like it must have been in the first three decades of the industry when there were 2,000 or more makes churning the dust on America's pioneer roadways.
Blood, Kidney, Foos, Fawick, Darling, Calorie, Cricket, Acorn, Bug and Eureka sound like ridiculous names for automobiles, but they appeared on radiator nameplates in those good old days.
Hundreds of manufacturers and so-called assemblers reached into the giant word-bag to find trade names which would adequately describe their new motor cars.
Ideal, Okay, Fidelity, Foolproof, Perfection, Ultimate, Simplicity, Quick, Able, Reliable, Practical, Superior and Best autos chugged out of tiny factories. They were joined by Gadabouts, Sprites, Imps, Pirates, Wasps, Cyclones, Winners, Gems, Jewels and Buckmobiles.
The animal kingdom provided such car names as Badger, Beaver, Buffalo, Bull Dog, Coyote, Dragon, Elk, Fox, Gopher, Greyhound, Lion, Panther, Tiger, Whippet and Wolverine. There were Ducks, Dodos, Eagles, Falcons, Hawks and Black Crows.
Historic and contempor-
ary celebrities were honored
by the auto-labelers: Ger-
onimo, Dolly Madison, Ben
Hur, Rockne, Rickenbacker, LaFayette, napoleon, Oldfield, Pevere, Franklin, Carnegie, Custer, Greeley and a horse named Dan Patch.
Presidents Washington, Lincoln, Jackson, Adams, Cleveland, Harding, Harrison, Madison, Monroe, Grant, Pierce, Hoover, Johnson (Andrew, not Lyndon) and Roosevelt (Teddy) all had cars named for them.
Pioneer motorists drove Admirals, Commodores, Leaders, Monarchs, Commanders, Dictators (before Hitler), Generals, Kings, Queens, Princes and Princesses. Celestial machines included Comets, Suns, Moons, Stars and Meteors. At least 17 makes were named after states and more than three dozen after cities.
Peter Pan, Tally-ho, Dixie, Conestoga, Great Smith, Buddy, American Chocolate, Gabriel, Everybody's, Iroquois, Seminole and Algonquin were cars which came and went as quickly as the Rapid, Apex, Wonder, Supreme, Gas-Au-Lec and the unsuccessful Success. The Hazard was a poor title chosen by a Rochester, N.Y., manufacturer, but Howard E. Coffin wisely chose Hudson instead of his own name for the car he developed.
Many of the early automobiles � several of which survived � were namesakes of the designers or builders. The obvious ones were Henry Ford, Louis Chevrolet, Walter P. Chrysler, David Dunbar Buick, Ransom E. Olds, Charles W. Nash, James Ward Packard and John North Willys.
Various brother combinations were involved, too. They included Edgar and Elmer Apperson, the Stanley twins (of Steamer fame), John and Horace Dodge, Fred and August Duesenberg, Charles and Frank Duryea, John and Clem Studebaker and the White brothers, Walter, Windsor and Rollin.
Cars were named for Harry C. Stutz, Albert Augustus Pope, Wiliam Crapo Durant (founder of General Motors), Charles Metz, Jonathan Dixon Maxwell (Jack Benny's favorite), Hugh Chalmers, Thomas B. Jeffrey, George N. Pierce and many others.
Of the autos mentioned � and hundreds of others as well � almost all of them faded into historical oblivion prior to 1928. The depression of 1907 took its toll; so, too, did the waning popularity of steamers, electrics and high-wheelers.
The economic curtailments of World War I wiped out numerous marginal producers, and the deflationary period which followed cut an additional swath in the ranks. Soon there were only a few survivors.
Today the relics of that unusual era rest in museums and the garages of antique auto hobbyists. A unique period in America's industrial history came and went in a hurry � but, for some of us, the memory lingers on.