Description: This “curved dash” 1901 Oldsmobile was the first gas-powered automobile ever purchased in Sioux City. It was owned by Father John A. Gerleman, a reverend at the St. Boniface Catholic Church in Sioux City, making him the first true automobile owner in Sioux City. It was manufactured by the Olds Gas Engine Works in Detroit, and featured a chain-drive and a one cylinder, 4.5 horsepower engine, a tiller bar for steering, and a top speed of 20 miles per hour. The model was named the “curved dash” because of the trademark curved front, making it look almost like a carriage. This likely boosted the early car’s popularity, for while it was still cutting edge and modern, it was not a drastic change from what people had seen before. Father Gerleman owned the car for three years before it was sold to Frank Spiecker of Remsen in 1904. It was fully restored in 1970.
The change from carriages to cars in Sioux City did not happen overnight. Electricity was a far more reliable means of energy and transport in Sioux City, and even in 1901 carriages and coaches were being replaced with electric streetcars and transit rails. In the beginning of the automobile era cars were expensive to manufacture and thus expensive to purchase. The “curved dash” was popular because it was the first automobile that was mass-produced, meaning manufactured on an assembly line with interchangeable parts. But at the dawn of the automobile most cities, including Sioux City, did not have readily available resources to support a widespread car market that we see blooming later in the 20th century. In Sioux City in the early 20th century cars were mainly used for racing, not for transport, as they were simply not efficient for the public to own, operate, and maintain.
However as the century progressed technology adapted to make room for the world of the automobile. Soon carriage manufacturers and repair shops in Sioux City were making the switch to automobiles, making it even more convenient for Sioux Cityans to own cars. Other businesses started and benefitted from cars as well. Kari-Keen manufactured trunks for cars, Albertson & Co. manufactured car parts, accessories, and tools, and the Moore-Shenkberg Grocery Company used automobiles to transport goods. As the world around it adapted to this new technology, the automobile was officially here to stay.
Gift of Lee Brennan