A Chappie Tries the New Horseless Carriage


| 4/13/2016 1:14:00 PM


Tags: Looking Back, Sam Moore,

Sam MooreA fellow named John W. Keller wrote for several New York City newspapers during the 1890s under the pseudonym of “Cholly Knickerbocker.” His subjects were the people who frequented fancy night clubs and expensive restaurants, the perceived “upper crust” of New York Society. In a March 1897 issue of the New York Journal, he wrote the following account of one of New York’s rich young men (who hung out at private clubs and were known as “Chappies”), who had just had his first ride in a new-fangled “horseless carriage,” vehicles that at that time were considered by many as not quite respectable.

A Chappie Tries the New Horseless Carriage

In search of a new sensation not inconsistent with a proper observation of Lent, I went yesterday and rode in a horseless carriage. I don't regret the experiment. After the first flush of the thing, and even without the familiar aspect of the harness and the horse, it wasn’t unlike riding in an ordinary carriage.

But it is in that first sensation that you get your novelty. It’s as though you were being served with a “high ball,” without the ball. There is a sense of incompleteness about it. You seemed to be sitting on the front end of a huge pushcart, propelled by an invisible force and guided by a hidden hand.

There is also a seeming brazenness to the whole performance; I dreamed once that I walked down Fifth Avenue in my pajamas in the full tide of the afternoon promenade, and I almost died with shame before I awoke. Yesterday I had something of the same feeling as I sat there and felt myself pushed forward into the very face of grinning, staring and sometimes jeering New York. But it wore away after a while.

Gradually I felt that I did not need the protection of a horse in front of me. I returned the wicked glances of the bicycle ladies on the Boulevard, and when I got back to Fifth Avenue I was almost as much at home and felt almost as devilish as the other chappies whose faces were glued to club windows, and whose eyes were riveted on the beautiful river of feminity that sweeps in counter currents along the main thoroughfare of fashion.