Sent to The Frederick Press and The Frederick Leader, January 22, 2012
Brush Auto Company ads featured Abernathy Boys
For most folks who visit the Pioneer Townsite Museum in Frederick, the museum’s star feature is its 1910 Brush Runabout automobile. The car is an authentic, restored Brush just like one that was driven by Louis and Temple Abernathy from New York City to Oklahoma in 1910.
|Pioneer Townsite Museum's 1910 Brush Runabout|
The Brush is an early car that few modern-day folks know much about. The Brush Automobile Company manufactured cars from 1906 to 1912. The cars were made in Detroit, and came in several models, including a truck and a “closed cabin” car. The most popular model, though, was the small open-air Runabout.
It’s difficult for us to imagine today how the adventures of two Tillman County boys, Louis and Temple Abernathy, captured the nation in 1910. Beginning in April 1910, the news media of the day followed their trip on horseback from the family ranch west of Frederick to New York City. In New York, they were greeted by masses of people and given a place of prominence in the huge June 1910 tickertape parade that honored Theodore Roosevelt.
Their trip home to Oklahoma in a Brush automobile, though, was not only covered in newspapers, but also trumpeted in Brush advertising of the day.
A wonderful website (www.brushauto.net) dedicated to the Brush automobile is operated by Charles Stokes. The site contains photos, many old advertisements, a Brush owner’s manual, and a lot of Brush memorabilia. It also contains a brief account of the Abernathy boys’ adventures.
Stokes has shared numerous vintage ads with the Tillman County Historical Society, including the above advertisement from 1910 that includes a drawing of the Abernathy boys with their Brush and an offer from “Uncle Ben – the Auto Man” to give away a free Brush to some other lucky boys (There is no word on whether any cars were actually given away).
Most Brush Runabouts were one-cylinder and delivered 6 to 10 horsepower. The Brush website describes the car’s mechanics as follows: “The Runabout had a wooden frame and axles that were designed to attain a lower vehicle weight and a lower cost of production. Rear wheels were connected to the transmission by sprockets and chains. The transmission was a planetary type, with two gears forward and one reverse.”
Top speed for most Runabouts was about 25 miles an hour – plenty fast, considering that there were few paved roads! The Brush was known for being able to climb well and its ability to handle mud well.
It is estimated that as many as 10,000 Brushes may have been manufactured, and about 200 are thought to exist today.
Another Brush Automobile Company ad, circa 1910, bragged about the many endurance victories of the Brush, including the Abernathy boys’ trip. The ad's text, in more readable form, is after the ad:
|1910 ad touted Abernathy boys' trip and other Brush points of pride.|
THE BRUSH RUNABOUT – EVERYMAN’S CAR
The Abernathy Kids
In 1908 one of our early models crossed the continent. The same car climbed Pike’s Peak in eight hours, every foot of the way under its own power. The brush won the Algonquin Hill Climb in its class the same year.
In 1909 a Brush stock car successfully negotiated the Glidden Tour of 2,438 miles in fifteen days. Many of the large cars, for which this tour was designed, failed to finish.
In the little Glidden Tour at Minneapolis the following month, the Brush won the St. Paul Dispatch Trophy in open competition with more than twenty cars ranging in price from $750 to $5,600. This route was almost 600 miles over sandy prairie trails.
The Brush also made a record of 40.6 miles on one gallon of gasoline in the Economy Fuel Contest run under the auspices of the New York Automobile Dealers’ Association the same year.
In 1910 the “Abernathy kids” Louis and Temple, nine and six years old respectively, drove a Brush Runabout from New York City to their home in Oklahoma City. You probably remember these youngsters, who rode broncos from their father’s ranch in Oklahoma to New York to meet Colonel Roosevelt on his return from Africa.
The father of the boys chose a Brush for the trip, because it was the only car he could find which was simple enough for the youngsters to understand and handle.
No race, no tour, no endurance run ever meant so much to the prospective buyer of a motor car, as the feat of these boys driving the Brush more than 2,500 miles.
In the Mumsey Historic Tour, the principal endurance contest of the East in 1910, the Brush finished with a perfect score and won the trophy in its class. The route covered 1,550 miles over all kinds of roads from the boulevards of New Jersey to the rough mountain roads of Pennsylvania.
The same year, the Brush again won the Algonquin Hill Climb in its class.
To those who know the capabilities of the Brush, there is nothing unusual about its remarkable performances. The Brush has been performing seemingly impossible feats ever since it has been on the market. These public achievements are all of vital importance to the prospective motor-car buyer. They conclusively demonstrate the features which prove the value of a motor car – simplicity, endurance, economy, dependability.
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Special thanks to Charles Stokes and Brushauto.net for permission to use vintage advertising and information from the site.
Joe Wynn is a member of the Tillman County Historical Society’s board of directors.