Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home
Close Window

New York City, New York
July 26th, 1903


It was 4:30 in the morning on Sunday, July 26th, when Jackson, Crocker and Bud crossed the Harlem River into Manhattan, drove down the city's deserted streets, and finally honked their horn to awaken the night porter at the Holland House hotel on 30th Street and 5th Avenue.

Jackson had made it from San Francisco in 63 days, 12 hours, and 30 minutes — well within his wager of 90 days. And having become the first to drive a car across the nation, within hours of their entrance into New York, he and Crocker and Bud were the toast of the town.

Jackson had lost twenty pounds during the long journey. And he had spent $8,000 of his own money — the price of the car, a salary for Crocker, food and lodging, the seemingly endless need for new tires and replacement parts, 800 gallons of gasoline, and the $15 to purchase Bud.

But, he said, "it was worth every cent and every pound to win that $50 bet."

And yet, when it was all over, he never bothered to collect his winnings.

Play Video Clip


Newspaper Article

The New York Herald

Dr. H. Nelson Jackson and Sewall K. Crocker, his chauffeur, finished the first transcontinental automobile trip at half-past four o'clock yesterday morning.

On their arrival, the mud besmirched and travel stained vehicle which had borne them so faithfully and sturdily over fifty-six hundred miles of roads between the Pacific and the Atlantic was housed in a garage in West 58th Street. All day yesterday it was visited by admiring automobilists, and curious passersby peeped in upon it. In honor of its achievement it was decorated with tiny flags and draped with national standards.

The thick coating of mud gave evidence that it had been somewhere and that somewhere a long way off. A broken mud guard and a sprung front axle alone attested the hard knocks it had had on its long journey.

 

Excerpted from Horatio's Drive: America's First Road Trip by Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns, a Borzoi Book published by Alfred A. Knopf. Copyright © 2003 by The American Lives II Film Project, LLC. All rights reserved.

 

Close Window