The First GPS and Trendy High Tech Toys for Automobiles Dated 1912

 

Stevens-Duryea Model C-Six automobile as advertised in September 1, 1912 special millinery issue of Vogue Magazine. The Steven-Duryea was advertised between $4500 to $5950. Compare this to the fact that the average US worker made $200-$400 annuallly...a more educated mechanical engineer took home about $5000.  Image enhanced. thegildedtimes.wordpress.com
Illustration of Stevens-Duryea Model C-Six automobile as advertised in September 1, 1912 special millinery issue of Vogue magazine,  listed between $4500 to $5950. Compare this car’s price to statistics showing that the average US worker made $200-$400 annually that year, while well-educated mechanical engineers’ salaries were $5000.  Image digitally enhanced for clarity.  thegildedtimes.wordpress.com


If you wanted the latest high tech toy in 1912, it would have been a GPS for your car. Then came the swanky odometers, nouveau speedometers and celluloid covered, leather bound road maps.

 

The Jones Live Map directional GPS device offered a real time way to get from here to there without getting lost. This was essential during an era when few roads were paved and there were few places to find gasoline along the way.  It was tricky to even find the shortest route to your destination and most drivers were well aware that their romantic motoring adventures could quickly become disastrous.

While there is a certain amount of fascination in touring through an unfamiliar part of the country and in wondering what will be the view in store for us just around the corner, the driver must be forewarned of dangerous turns and steep hills, and must be ready to take this road or that at the next fork.

There are poor roads of course as well as good, and the average motorist ought to keep to the latter, even though the scenery on the better highways may not be as picturesque.

The roads of this country are being improved at the rate of thousands of miles a year, and a route  which may be almost impassable one season may be converted into a fine boulevard the next.

Unknown journalist.
All quotes from “The Conquering of New Roads.”
Vogue magazine,  Millinery Number,  September 1, 1912

Jones Live Map was originally invented by J.W. Jones during the year 1909 and was readily available to motorists by 1912. The device was directly attached to the outer edge of the car, next to the steering wheel on the driver’s side. The Live Map was a fairly large, brass receptacle that held a celluloid disc, and this was connected by a cable to the front wheel of the car in such a manner that it will rotate at a proportionate speed.

The “live map” consists of a celluloid disc marked off on its outer edge with the various touring data included in that section. The distances between cross-roads, turns, hills, or whatever other road marks, are indicated and are placed in their proper relation to each other.

A pointer on the receptacle indicates the position of the car as long as one adheres to the prescribed route.

When the route is again taken up after a deviation has been made, the Live Map may be set so that the indicator will point to that locality at which the main highway is again followed. 

Thus it requires but a glance at the point to determine the exact location of the car.

The Live Map’s celluloid discs were marked with enough information to map out about 100 miles. Once that section had been traveled, the driver would stop the car and replace the disc with the next one in the series. This continued until the desired destination was reached. Celluloid was considered stronger than paper maps, easier to keep clean and dry, and was decidedly richer in appearance.

The first GPS:  Jones Live Map. "A live map, in and out of its case, that does all of the computing." Quote from "The Conquering of New Roads." No author listed. Image scanned from Vogue magazine, special millinery issue, September 1, 1912. Digitally enhanced for clarity. thegildedtimes.wordpress.com
The first GPS: Jones Live Map. “A live map, in and out of its case, that does all of the computing.” Quotes and images from “The Conquering of New Roads.” No author listed. Image scanned from Vogue magazine, special millinery issue, September 1, 1912. Digitally enhanced for clarity. thegildedtimes.wordpress.com

Interestingly enough, a Jones Live Map, with its celluloid discs, went up for bid at Boston’s Skinner Auction House during the summer of 2006. It sold for $764. In contrast, during the summer of 1912,  Henry Ford’s Model T car was selling for just about the very same price.

Rand-McNally, a familiar company in today’s world, produced the very first paper road maps only 8 years before this article was published. Vogue advises fashionable drivers who own luxury roadsters that they should certainly store their newest maps in one of the showy, expensive, leather bound cases. These were designed so that paper maps were slipped into a broad pouch and then read through a protective celluloid cover.

To one who has tried to turn the pages of a road map in the strong wind created by the rapid travel of the car, this celluloid covering, that holds the leaves in place and at the same time protects them from dust, mud and rain, will strongly appeal.

The prices for these elegant road maps were quoted as $1.50, $2.50 or $3 depending upon the style, quality of leather and the custom color schemes created to match the vehicle. It is curious to note that while Vogue featured this $3 mapping luxury,  textile mill employees at Lawrence, Massachusetts made about $8 per 56-hour work week that year.

"A leather case with a celluloid front to hold the indispensable road map." Quotes and images from "The Conquering of New Roads." No author listed. Image scanned from Vogue magazine, special millinery issue, September 1, 1912. Digitally enhanced for clarity. thegildedtimes.wordpress.com
“A leather case with a celluloid front to hold the indispensable road map.”
Quotes and images from “The Conquering of New Roads.” No author listed. Image scanned from Vogue magazine, special millinery issue, September 1, 1912. Digitally enhanced for clarity. thegildedtimes.wordpress.com

Swanky speedometers with odometers topped off the list of glamorous gadgets. If installed correctly, they provided drivers with trip figures and just the right mathematics in order to accurately follow paper road maps.  The large sized speedometers also provided amusement to passengers who could watch along to see just how fast they were going. In fact, it was suggested that a second speedometer might be placed within the car so that everyone could see the speedand the time.

The modern speedometer is a handsome brass or nickel-plated instrument that is an ornament to any car. In addition to the speed which it constantly  indicates, and the total and daily mileage which is registered, it may be combined with an eight-day clock of the finest design and construction.

The face of the clock is equal to the size of the speedometer, and the dial and figures are thus sufficiently large to enable the time to be read from any part of the car.

For night driving, the dials of the speedometer and the clock are provided with small electric lights places in brass tubes in such a manner that the rays are thrown directly on the figures.

Although we traditionally remember the year 1912 due to the sinking of the Titanicperhaps even more historic were the technological concepts that were introduced that year. Now over a century later, there are few working examples of the Jones Live Map or other mapping devices left. However,  their innovative concepts are forever part of our everyday life.




 

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The Gilded Times

Journalist. Photographer. Illustrator.

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