Thursday, March 10, 2011

Brush Runabout, 1910

Column sent to Frederick Leader and Frederick Press
June 29, 2010
Bud and Temple Abernathy (played by two Frederick youngsters) visit with President Theodore Roosevelt (played by Dr. David Byland) during a 2006 Abernathy celebration at Frederick's Pioneer Townsite Museum. The authentic 1910 Brush Runabout, just like the one that Bud and Temple drove from New York City to Oklahoma in 1910, is a featured attraction in the museum's Abernathy exhibit.
Brush Runabout was Innovative Automobile
One of the most popular exhibit items at the historical society’s Pioneer Townsite Museum is a 1910 Brush Runabout automobile, just like the one that Tillman County youngsters Bud and Temple Abernathy drove home to Oklahoma from New York City in 1910.
In his 1967 book The Remarkable Ride of the Abernathy Boys, author Robert B. Jackson provided a great deal of information about the Brush.
The Brush Automobile was manufactured for only six years – 1907 until 1912. Its designer was Alanson P. Brush. The automobile was an exciting new device and there were many emerging auto companies, but Brush designed his car to be small, simple and inexpensive – a car for the average man. Henry Ford developed the Ford Model T, manufactured from 1908 until 1927, for exactly the same market.
Abernathys during their 1910 auto trip
The Brush Company might have had the same success as Ford, except that in 1911 Alanson Brush’s company joined the financially unsound United States Motor Company, which folded in 1912.
Prior to developing his own automobile, Alanson Brush had helped design and develop engines for early Cadillacs and Oaklands (which later became Pontiac).
He believed that the Brush car should be small and lightweight so that it could be easily powered. For that reason, he kept its dimensions to seven feet long and five feet wide, and he opted to make its frame out of wood instead of steel.
Visitors to the Pioneer Townsite Museum often note that the 1910 Brush is really just a wooden wagon with a metal body and small motor attached. In addition to its wooden frame, its axles, wheels, and steering wheel are also made of wood.
Cost of a Brush automobile in 1910 was $485. That was much cheaper than most automobiles of the time, but was still a lot of money.
Bud and Temple Abernathy fix a flat tire during their 1910 trip.
The Brush Automobile had a one-cylinder engine that produced ten horsepower. Its top speed was about 30 miles per hour.
In a special driving test of the time, it got more than 40 miles per gallon of gasoline.
One of the Brush’s most innovative developments was coil suspension. According to Jackson, the Brush was the first car made in this country to use coil springs for its suspension.  A large coil spring was anchored at the top of each wheel assembly, giving the Brush an unusually comfortable ride for its time.
The standard Brush came in two basic colors – green or red. In 1910, the wheels were painted light gray. It came without a standard top, doors, or windshield. It did feature big brass headlamps which were powered by acetelyne gas from a tank on the running board. A sqawky bulb horn was also standard.
In 1908, two years before the Abernathy boys’ trip from New York City to Oklahoma, a man named Fred Trinkle, who was a Brush salesman and mechanic, drove a Brush Runabout from Detroit (where the cars were made) to Denver, stopping along the way to drive the car up Pike’s Peak!
The Brush cars were known for their climbing ability. That is because they used a chain drive and were one of the first cars that used a fuel pump to feed gasoline to the carburetor.
According to Jackson’s book, when Trinkle reached the top of Pike’s Peak, he drove his Brush right up the steps of the Summit House that is located at the top of the mountain.
Later in 1908, Trinkle drove his Brush Automobile from Denver to San Francisco. From California, he shipped his Brush back to Detroit by train, and then drove the same car from Detroit to New York, thereby completing a transcontinental trip!
Trinkle in his Brush was only the 17th person to claim the accomplishment of making a transcontinental trip by automobile.
       Joe Wynn is a member of the Tillman County Historical Society’s board of directors. He can be contacted by e-mail at

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