The First Car to Ever Grace the Streets of Saint Paul, Minnesota

Dr. I.F. Siqveland is believed to be the owner of the first automobile to drive on the streets of Saint Paul. In 1899 the good doctor purchased a “One Lung Winton” gasoline-powered car to take him on trips from his home in Bald Eagle to his offices in the downtown area. The car, produced in Cleveland, Ohio by Alexander Winton was one of over a hundred sold in the United States that year, making the handmade Winton the largest manufacturer of gasoline-powered cars in the country at that time.

1899 Winton
1899 Winton – image via Wikipedia

The “horseless carriage” was a one-cylinder beauty (possibly where the “one-lung” moniker came from) that cost $1250 dollars (worth roughly $35,000 today). The trunkless two-seater with the wood frame was just over one hundred inches long and approached a top speed of nearly twenty miles per hour (on a flat stretch of road). Dry batteries were used to start the engine from a current created by a two and a half foot crank located in the front of the car. Once moving, the two-speed transmission is engaged by a clutch and two separate levers, one used for lower speeds and a second for high. There were no headlights or brakes.

According to tales later told by the doctor the car was initially not very popular with the horse crowd. It was said that you could hear the engine of the Winton, which was eloquently described as sounding like “the world’s loudest smoker’s cough”, firing from up to a half-mile away. Once the car got rolling it wasn’t any quieter as it lumbered down the road. It was already a strange sight for the people of the area and the incredible noise was not making Dr. Siqveland any new friends.

The St. Paul Building was built in 1899 and at 315 feet it was one ...
St. Paul Building was built in 1899

One day while driving by a local horse camp the doctor was stopped by two large hay bales in the road. His path had been blocked by the owners of the camp, who didn’t like their horses being spooked every time he drove by. They decided they were going to do something about it.

The owners, along with a large group of their friends, told the doctor that they were going to push his car into the nearby swamp – solving the problem of the loud noises frightening their horses. Dr. Siqveland, as the owner of the car, didn’t think this was a fair action and offered to shoot anyone that tried “with (a) machine gun, which I have special permission from the government to carry” that he said he had sitting in his car. Needless to say, the men cleared the road and never came between the doctor and his destination again.

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