Across the Country in a Chalmers Touring Car


Sam MooreReading old farm and automobile publications can turn up some strange tales – like this one that appeared in the July 1918 issue of Auto and Tractor Shop magazine.

In 1916, a man named Abraham Toube lived in Portland, Maine, and had eight children, a sick wife, a well-worn 1909 Chalmers touring car and $300 in cash. In order to improve his wife’s health, Toube was determined to pack up the family in the old Chalmers and move to the West Coast.

Before leaving Maine, Toube had converted the touring car’s body into a large truck-like box that served as “sleeping compartment, dining room, play room, reception hall and general living quarters,” for the family, which included eight kids ranging in age from a 15-year-old son to a 5-month-old daughter. We are told that “except where impossible on account of the weather, the father and eldest son slept on the ground on cots, while the interior of the machine, which was generally enclosed at night by the side curtains, was used by Mrs. Toube and the younger children for sleeping.” All the boxes, cans, and bundles required for their necessary supplies and their household effects were tied onto the car’s running boards and anywhere else feasible.

The Toube’s long journey began around Christmas of 1916, as the first accounts of it appeared in the spring of 1917, and although the three different newspaper stories I turned up varied as to the family’s final destination, they agreed on most of the story.

The family took time to see the country on their way west as we are told they traveled some 6,000 miles and journeyed by way of Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Omaha, St. Louis, Kansas City, etc. They camped along the road or, when in town, on a likely looking vacant lot, while Mr. Toube and his oldest boy worked at various odd jobs to eke out the $300. The old Chalmers was adorned with signs declaring the Toube’s mission: “Maine to California” and the tourists were “the object of interest in every state and town they visited.”

Chalmers touring car
The 1909 Chalmers touring car and the Toube family. Photos from the July 1918 issue of Auto and Tractor Shop magazine.


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