The Ten-Year-Old asks the most important question of her life

When I picked The Ten-Year-Old up from school yesterday, she wasted no time. “Mommyo, I have to ask you the most important question of my life.”

Uh-oh, I thought. That’s gonna be a doozy. She’s at that age, you know. But I’ve invested a lot of energy in convincing The Ten-Year-Old that she can ask me anything, so I had no choice. “OK. What’s up?”

The Ten-Year-Old: “Did they have cars in 1893?”

Whew. “Probably. Why do you want to know?”

The Ten-Year-Old: “I’m doing research for my novel.”

“Let’s find out.” So we asked the iPhone right there on the school steps. This wasn’t the sort of question that could wait until we’d walked home.

Googling “were there cars in 1893” led us to the Wikipedia entry for Charles Edgar Duryea. In 1893, Charles and his brother Frank were busy engineering and road-testing America’s first gasoline-powered car out of their garage in Springfield, Massachusetts.

The Duryea’s car didn’t look much like the cars of today. There’s a reason the first cars were marketed as horseless carriages. See if you can figure it out.

Charles and Frank Duryea driving the 1894 version of their gasoline-powered car. (Photo via Wikipedia, Public Domain.)

The Ten-Year-Old, disappointedly: “That’s not going to work at all.”

So we asked Google again, and found this lovely blog post full of pictures of old-timey cars at Then and Now. Check it out for yourself.  There’s sure to be one there that pleases you.

Although I have to warn you, The Ten-Year-Old didn’t find anything remotely useable until the 1898 Duryea Delivery Wagon.

The 1898 Duryea Delivery Wagon. Looks a lot like the wagon the villains used in Disney’s original animated 101 Dalmatians movie, doesn’t it? (Photo via Then and Now)

Back in the day, we also did a series of posts on old-timey cars here at Caterpickles. Read through them or not as your curiosity dictates:

Thanks for spending part of your day with us.


About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book, Did Dinosaurs Have Belly Buttons?, is currently planned for release in 2018. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Ten-Year-Old at, chatting about books and the writing life at, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
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