Automobile owners of 2021 look for the latest bells and whistles, such as blue-tooth capability, rear view camera, parking sensors, keyless entry, heated seats and steering wheels, remote starters, wifi, OnStar, and satellite radio. In the early 1900s, consumers had considerably fewer options. Early Ford Model Ts were offered in several different colors, but in 1913 this changed to one color – black. “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants,” noted Model T inventor Henry Ford in his 1922 book My Life and Work, “so long as it is black.” Later Model Ts were offered in six different colors. Other standard features of today, such as roofs, doors, and windshields, were options in the early 1900s.
Shopping for a car in the early 1900s was also very different from today. If a customer wants to purchase a car today, there’s a number of ways to do so. Vehicles can be viewed in person (at a dealership or at the seller’s location), on television, online (via Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and dealer websites) and in newspapers and magazines. Back in the 1910s and 1920s, car purchasers had no internet, no television, and limited newspaper advertisements and dealerships.
The only way to see an automobile then was in person. If there were no dealerships nearby, horseless carriage shoppers needed to travel to nearby towns. After the premier of the mass produced Model T, Cecil Countians had to wait until 1909 to purchase an automobile locally. In 1909, the first car dealership in the county appeared in Rising Sun. Duyckinck, Sterrett and Co. became agents for the Hupmobile, the Invincible Schacht, and Oakland Machines. The dealership was located in the depot warehouse at the Philadelphia and Baltimore Central Railroad Station. In 1911, Warren W. Boulden, Sr. opened the Elkton Garage on Main Street in Elkton. He sold Dodge Brothers trucks and several types of automobiles. In 1913 he signed a contract to sell Fords exclusively.
Excitement over the automobile grew steadily in the county, and in 1925 Cecil Post No. 15 American Legion decided to capitalize on it. According to the February 11, 1925 Newark Post, the first automobile show in Cecil County was organized by the Cecil Post and would be under the direction of H. Frank Hurn, a member of the post. This exciting event would take place on February 11, 12, 13, and 14 in the Elkton Armory. The exhibit would be open from 2:30 to 11:00 pm daily and would have no admission price. Nightly music would be provided and on February 14, the 45 piece drum and bugle corps from Frankford Post No. 211 of Philadelphia would lead a parade of Legionnaires from nearby towns through the streets of Elkton.
The Newark Post reported that all the Cecil County automobile dealers of Cecil County would have displays, plus some from nearby cities. The article stated that Wilmington, Delaware dealers were “all agog” over the Elkton show. The Post believed that Elkton would “undoubtedly be the mecca for all lovers of fine automobiles” during the show. Exhibitors for the 1925 show included Ford and Lincoln dealer Warren W. Boulden of Elkton, Studebaker dealers Giles Garage of Elkton and McMullin of Perryville, Cadillac dealer Delaware Motor Sales of Wilmington, Flint dealer Taylor Auto Company of Wilmington, Maxwell and Chrysler dealer Taylor McKenney of Elkton, Buick and Chevrolet dealer Malin and Deibert of Elkton, Dodge dealer H. M. Duyckinck of Rising Sun, Nash dealer Clark and Oliver of Perryville, Oakland dealer T.H. Gallagher of Wilmington, and Hudson and Sussex dealers McMullin of Principio Furnace, McCauley of Galena, and Pogue and Son of Rising Sun. Radio and electrical displays would also be part of the show.
The next edition of the Newark Post, February 18, 1925, reported that “Elkton was jammed with visitors from all over the county and nearby Delaware and Pennsylvania”. Because of the success of the auto show, every dealer at the show signed up to participate in the 1926 show. Show organizers reported that fourteen cars were sold from the floor of the exhibit, and several more were ordered. One dealer was reported to have said, “I would have to travel every day for three weeks about the county to meet as many prospective car buyers as I met during those four nights.” The Frankford Post No. 211 drum and bugle corps drew a big crowd to the show, and the next day performed for patients at Perry Point Hospital.
The auto show became an annual event for Cecil Post 15. According to the February 13, 1926 Cecil Democrat, proceeds from the auto show were donated to the county’s “Ambulance Fund”. The event grew each year. It was reported that over 1600 people visited the show in 1927, the largest crowd ever for the auto show. The shows continued into the 1930s.
Cecil Post No. 15’s automobile shows helped Cecil County in two ways. First, it had helped the county raise money to purchase an ambulance. Secondly, the automobile industry had received a boost in sales. Potential buyers came to Elkton, lured by the new vehicles on display and the entertainment provided. They were able to comparison shop without travelling all over the county.
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