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Automobile’s in Jacksonville

“A terrible journey” defines early drive to the beach

Local history accounts indicate that there were a grand total of three automobiles in Jacksonville at the time of the 1901 Fire. In 1903, the number of locally owned autos peaked at 32. By 1905, the total increased to 166. In fact, in March of 1905, the Jacksonville Automobile and Motor Boat Club was organized as local enthusiasm increased.

This machine was made by the Locomobile Company of America and shipped from the factory to Charles A. Clark of Jacksonville, arriving on January 4, 1900. It was a 5 h.p. steam-motor car capable of a speed of 40 miles an hour.

By this time, the city government was alert to the growing trend and lawmakers had already passed a six mile an hour speed limit for downtown streets. The first speeding violation resulted in “a prminent businessman” being hauled into court.

On April 3, 1905, local automobile pioneer Fred E. Gilbert, driving a Victoria touring car, made the first automobile trip from Jacksonville to the beach. He described the trip “as a terrible journey.” At the time, the road roughly — roughly the route of today’s Atlantic Boulevard — was only partially graded, an effort spearheaded by Gilbert that began more than two decades earlier.

Jacksonville’s population exceeded 60,000 in 1912, and by that time more than 1,000 autos were on city streets. Today there are 803,049 registered vehicles in Duval County.

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