A drawing with unknown origins and a few “worst of” lists are all that’s left of the 1899 Horsey Horseless. Yes, it’s just as stupid looking as its name.
The 1899 Horsey Horseless was the brainchild of one-time Battle Creek resident Uriah Smith -- an author, editor, Seventh-Day Adventist church leader and inventor.
Basically, it was supposed to be a buggy with a horsehead attached to the front of it.
There’s no record of the Horsey Horseless ever being actually built but its existence has been spread on Internet forums and lists. I was a little skeptical as no one really had any information about it.
This Snopes (a popular website dedicated to debunking urban legends and those silly chain emails you get) forum post back in 2008 had people speculating if it even existed.
I wanted to dig a little bit deeper so the first idea I had was to look at some old auto magazines.
After some stumbling around on Google Books, I came across this old article entitled “The Motor Car Back in ‘99” from “Motor Travel: A Magazine for Automobile Owners.”
The article states:
“Under the head of ‘New Inventions’ is a note about the ‘Horsey Horseless Carriage,’ which tells about Uriah Smith, of Battle Creek, Mich., and his method of preventing runaways on the part of horses who meet motor vehicles. The device included the life size image of a horse down to the shoulders, which was to be fastened in front of the carriage. This he warranted would allay the fears of any equine, ‘for the carriage would have all the appearance of a horse-drawn vehicle; the live horse would be thinking of another horse, and before he could discover his error and see that he had been fooled, the strange carriage would have passed, and would then be too late to grow frantic and fractious.’ The inventor also recommends his device as a wind brake and as a receptacle for gasoline.”
This sounds crazier and crazier the more I read. This horseheaded horseless carriage is going to fool horses & hold gas?
It’s possible Uriah had pranked the newspaper & magazine writers of his day with a drawing and some preposterous ideas. So I needed to find some actual proof.
Patent number D30551 --”Design for a Vehicle-Body”. It took me awhile but here’s proof of Uriah’s genius. Filed on March 13, 1899 & patented April 11, 1899, it starts off with “Be it known that I, URIAH SMITH, a citizen of the United States, residing at Battle Creek, in the county of Calhoun and State of Michigan, have invented and produced a new and original Design for a Vehicle-Body...”.
Uriah also mentioned that the “the horse’s head is arranged in a life-like attitude”.
So, there’s no way to prove that this thing was ever produced but Uriah certainly wasn’t joking. Maybe someone can finally build this so we can see it cruising down Woodward Avenue.
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