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August 17: Speed Ordinance in Hope, ND

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In early years of automobiles, they had to intermingle with pedestrians, horses, and bicycles. The rules of the road were few, and evolving from town-to-town. On this date in 1910, the Hope Pioneer newspaper reported on a recently-passed ordinance that sought to address the regulatory challenge.

Ordinance No. 31 dealt with the speed of all things ridden, driven, or operated “on the streets, alleys, public thoroughfares or public grounds within the limits of the city of Hope,” and offered a penalty of $5 to $25 to those who disobeyed the rules.

According to this new guideline, no one was allowed to “run, race, or immoderately ride or drive any horse, mule, or other animal,” in aforementioned areas of the city at more than 10 miles an hour. That included animals hooked up to wagons. It may seem surprising to some that this was established at all; however, it is important to remember that some horses can reach speeds of up to 40 miles per hour. That may have been reckless on the city streets, especially when pulling a buggy with people inside.

Perhaps more surprising, the ordinance limited people from driving or by any means propelling any automobile, motorcycle, or any other sort of vehicle powered by gasoline, steam, electricity, or any other substance to the same 10 miles-per-hour.

If listeners are wondering, cars could certainly go a great deal faster by that time. Some of the fastest cars produced between 1900 and 1909 were the Mercedes-Simplex 60HP, which could go as fast as 73 miles per hour, and was recorded in 1904 as hitting 92.3 racing at Daytona Beach. In 1911, the Prinz Heinrich (also known as the Prince Henry) could get up to 85 miles per hour. The American Mercer 35R Raceabout was sold between 1910 and 1914, and could reach around 90 miles per hour. These speedy cars were used in many races.

Automobiles participating in any form of sanctioned racing within the city of Hope, such as on the racetrack or fair grounds, were able to do so without concern for the ordinance, which was specific to city traffic.

A few other safety and generally helpful rules were also put into effect. All vehicles were required to get and use a muffler, as well as “at least one light” in the front that should lit and used at all times.

As they say, ‘slow and steady wins the race.’ In the town of Hope, it was also the law.

Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker

The Hope Pioneer, August 18, 1910, p1

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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