In early August of 1908, the first automobile arrived in Fairbanks. It was a 50hp Pope Toledo touring car purchased by Dave Laiti. The following is an account of one of the first trips made in this car just two days after arriving in the Golden Heart City:
Fairbanks Daily Times, August 6, 1908
HAIR-RAISING TRIP IN THE AUTOMOBILE
Old-Timer Tells About the “Voyage” to Fox City Last Night.
Dave Laiti chaperoned a party of seven out to Fox gulch in his new automobile at 3 o’clock this morning. He made the round trip in 80 minutes traveling time. One old-timer who was a guest tells about it. He says the bloomin’ thing is ten feet long, and could make 50 feet in a jump. It would hit a raise in the road, fly up, jump up and forward 60 or 80 feet, hit the bottom and bounce. He said he was sure they struck bedrock 20 times. He said he crossed the Tanana when the ice was going out, mushing, and had run up against many inconveniences, but he had to ask to get out and walk back when they had covered about three miles of the return trip at the rate of 50 miles an hour. He said “Col.” McCrea was the “chiffoneer.”
Over the next few years several other autos appeared on the streets of Fairbanks. The following article is a humorous account of early day “joy-riding.”
Fairbanks Daily News Miner, August 17, 1911
BOB SHELDON A JOY RIDER
Picks Muddy Roads as Being Least Dangerous in Case of a Spill.
GAVE US A DEMONSTRATION
He Obligingly Dissected the Machine in Front of Our Office.
Bob Sheldon this afternoon had a party out for a little joy ride in the Sale auto on which he has been at work for some weeks past. The machine plowed through the mud in inspiring style, and the crowd aboard grew with each block passed.
Finally Bob stopped the benzene buggy in front of the News Miner office and took out its gizzard and other internal organs so that we could see how a buzz wagon is made. He has since succeeded in putting it together again without having any parts left over, which shows that he is a skilled mechanic. More wonderful, he also started it.
Note: Bobby Sheldon also has the historical distinction of being the first Alaskan to build a car, which he did in Skagway. That famous car is now on display at the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum in Fairbanks. Bobby Sheldon was also a member and past president of Pioneers of Alaska Men’s Igloo No. 4. This joyriding history nugget has been proudly brought to you by Men’s Igloo No. 4 and Women’s Igloo No. 8.