Battle Creek’s First Automobile Arrived December 5, 1900
It was December 5, 1900. A first for Battle Creek. Ethan C. Adams accepted delivery at the Michigan Central freight house of the first automobile to be owned in Battle Creek. It was a Metzger car made in Detroit by William Metzger. Metzger, who held the very first Detroit auto show a year earlier in 1899, owned and operated a bicycle company on Woodward Avenue in Detroit.
Adams was also in the bicycle business, as were many others in Battle Creek, as they capitalized on the bicycle craze of the 1890’s. In fact, Adams was one of the early proprietors in town, and was a major organizer of the Battle Creek Bicycle Club, organized in 1895.
According to the Battle Creek Daily Journal, December 5th, 1900:
“E.C. Adams, bicycle agent, 7 McCamly St. N, exhibited a William E. Metzger automobile on the streets today. The machine is made in Detroit. Mr. Adams will take the agency of the vehicle and has this one here as a sample.”
Adams said at the time that he regards the auto as a novelty and has no notion of giving up his bicycle business. Ironically, Adams’ new automobile was a sign of the end of the bicycle craze, although it would still be several years before the new-fangled automobiles would really take hold. Ten years later there were still only 188 cars in town, representing 50 different makers. Public interest eventually turned completely to automobiles.
The bike shop at 7 N. McCamly Street became the Battle Creek Enquirer location in 1912. (Pictured below)
By 1902 Adams had opened the Big Automobile Store in Battle Creek at 35 East Main Street. The ad in the Journal stated:
“We now have full sway of store and extend a cordial invitation to one and all to hear the new disc Graphophone play, and see a complete line of sundries, newest novelties, and our line of 1902 Columbia, Eldredge, Iver Johnson, Regal, Adams, Famous, Nonpareil and Fletcher Bicycles. Best equipped machine and repair shop in the city.”
According to Bernice Lowe’s “Tales of Battle Creek”, there was some dispute over who bought the first auto in Battle Creek.
“In 1901 Harry Burt and E. C. Adams each purchased Battle Creek's first automobile, depending on which historian is telling the story. By 1902 an ordinance was passed that each driver must buy a license for one dollar. In 1905 cars were ordered to have lamp, brakes, and alarm bell and stay off the sidewalks. Burt and 0. E. Schell were arrested for driving their cars on the sidewalk. No one could much blame them as the residence streets had not been constructed with a solid base and were often several inches of mire. A horse could slog through the mud but the primitive auto found the slippery stuff more frustrating”