May 21, 2024


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Felker steamed up Pikes Peak, inspired 1st car show

William B. Felker, he’s the guy who started it all – the attraction for auto shows in car-crazed Colorado.

Felker, in his Locomobile in August 1901, with a friend, Charles A. Yont, in the seat beside him, operated and pushed and carried the steamer to the summit of Pikes Peak.

It had never been done before. Never, that is, in a horseless carriage. On their return, Felker’s wife said, “I’m sure no one will ever do it again.”

“Coming down,” Felker said, “was very dangerous. We couldn’t get out. Sometimes the machine would spin around on two wheels; sometimes we would lurch threateningly, but we always righted ourselves.”

The fact Pikes Peak had been conquered by a steamer was great news for the state and its hundreds of early auto enthusiasts. Those early vehicles were split between the steamers, electrics and internal-combustion power.

Felker, who was the local agent for Locomobiles, began clamoring for an auto show in Denver. With the help of George E. Hannan and Hervey Nichols Jr., two other dealers, the first-ever local car show was scheduled for May 12-17, 1902, at the old Coliseum building.

A week before, in an effort to promote the event, Felker made a daring drive to Colorado Springs and back to Denver, 150 miles in 8 hours, 7 minutes, including 57 minutes spent fixing punctured tires. Driving 30 miles per hour, Felker was swinging around curves never built for such speed, reported the Denver Times.

Among many brands at that first show were Babcock Electric, Darling, Electric Vehicle, Elmore, Knox, Locomobile steamer, Oldsmobile, St. Louis, National electric, Mobile, Remington truck, Rambler, Toledo, Potter, Friedman, Waverly electric, Winton.

Auto shows began on a regular annual basis in Denver in 1905, when 15 dealers set up displays at the Coliseum. Exide batteries were demonstrated by Oliver Fritchle of the Electric Garage. Moving pictures of national races highlighted the 1906 event. A year later, the Coliseum hall was redecorated to give visitors the feeling they were in an outdoor setting.

The 1908 Denver Auto Show was moved to the Mammoth Skating Rink at Colfax Avenue and Clarkson Street, and the larger floor space was filled with 107 automobiles.

Forty car agencies were operating in Denver in 1908 and they sold 1,550 vehicles for a total of $3,250,000. The introduction of the Ford Model T was that year, which spurred sales. It was the best-selling car in America until production stopped in 1927 for the more modern Model A.

Prices for new cars by 2010 included $650 for a Brush Runabout, $750 for a Hupmobile Roadster, $850 for a Stanley Steamer, $1,025 for a Ford Model T, $1,400 for a Maxwell, $1,500 for a Regal, $2,250 for a Mitchell, as high as $3,000 for a Cadillac and $3,000 for a Winton Six.

The news and editorial staffs of The Denver Post had no role in this post’s preparation.

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