Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Brush was Remarkable Car

Column sent to Frederick Leader and Frederick Press
July 6, 2010
Bud and Temple Abernathy at start of their trip, New York City, 1910
 Abernathy trip helped promote the 1910 Brush
The 1910 Brush Runabout automobile that Bud and Temple Abernathy drove home to Oklahoma from New York City was a remarkable car of its time – lightweight, tough, and inexpensive.
It is likely, though, that the boys’ choice of the Brush was influenced, at least in part, as a promotion by the Brush Company.
Cost of the Brush Runabout in 1910 was $485. In Robert B. Jackson’s 1967 book The Remarkable Ride of the Abernathy Boys, he notes that the boys had earned money from appearing in early-day newsreels during their trip and had opened a bank account during their stay in the city. It was likely not a great deal of money, but could have been applied to the purchase price of the Brush.
Jackson’s book speculates, though, that the Brush Automobile Company may have offered the Abernathys a discounted purchase price. After all, the boys’ trip in their bright red Brush Runabout was sure to provide great publicity for the Detroit-headquartered Brush Automobile Company.
There is little doubt that the Brush Company promoted and capitalized on the trip.
Later in 1910 after the boys had returned to Oklahoma, a 34-page book called Meeting Roosevelt was published by J.M. Evans, Detroit, Michigan. Stated author of the book was 10-year-old Bud Abernathy.
Crowds greeted the Abernathy boys during their trip.
The book contains photos and illustrations of the Abernathy Boys taken during their 1910 adventures. Although the book starts with a recap of Bud and Temple’s 1909 trip from Frederick to New Mexico Territory, its telling of all their adventures leading up to their 1910 arrival in New York City, including the trip there, is covered in only the first five pages.
The rest of the book is primarily about the car – their search for the car, their learning to drive it on the streets of New York City, and their trip back to Oklahoma via Detroit where they visited the Brush factory.
The small book was obviously produced as a promotional piece for the Brush Automobile Company. It emphasizes the Brush’s lack of confusing gadgets, very reasonable cost, easy maintenance, and operation so easy that boys could drive it.
According to the book, Bud and Temple searched all around New York City and found many kinds of cars for sale, but all were too expensive or too complicated. They were about to give up when Temple saw a boy driving a car on the street. It was a Brush. The boy showed them how easy the car was to drive. “He turned a crank, jumped back in the seat, pushed two little levers on the wheel and one at the side, and the machine just went sailing down the street.” The boy then delivered Bud and Temple directly to the Brush dealer.
When they later brought their dad Jack to the dealer, he too was amazed at the wonderful Brush car and agreed to get it for the boys.
Louis "Bud" Abernathy with the Brush
No driver’s license was required in 1910. Two men from the dealership took Bud and Temple out to the New York City streets in their new Brush and taught them to drive it. “In thirty minutes,” Bud wrote, “I had it minding me just like I had always been its boss.”
“The next day,” Bud continued, “I ran it on Broadway and never ran over anyone or had any trouble at all.”
On Wednesday, July 6, 1910, a big farewell luncheon was held at the Hotel Astor for the Abernathys. Following the luncheon, the two boys departed New York City in their Brush with their father and a driver following in another car.
The drive back to Oklahoma would cover 2,512 miles and take three weeks. It generated a great deal of publicity for the two famous boys and for the Brush Automobile Company.
During the winter following their 1910 trip, Bud and Temple returned to New York City to appear in the Brush exhibit of the annual car show.

Joe Wynn serves on the Tillman County Historical Society Board of Directors. He can be contacted by e-mail at jawynn@cableone.net.


  1. Free Range Kids posted info about the Abernathy boys and visitors left some interesting comments:


  2. I agree with you and also think that brush was a really admirable car. If it would be possible for me to choose a car from the collection of vintage cars, I will surely select this one.
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