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In the early 1900s, the country ran on horsepower. It was real horsepower, as horses were the primary source of transportation. Farmers used horses to plow, seed, cultivate, and harvest. Horses also pulled the wagons that transported goods to market. Snow was cleared with plows pulled by horses. They also pulled carriages for personal transportation. The horse was vital to North Dakota.

The livery stable was an essential business. People boarded their horses at the livery when they came to town on business or for social reasons. They could be sure their animals would be properly fed and sheltered. People who did not own their own horse and carriage could rent a rig at the livery. It was common to use a rental for a Sunday drive. Larger wagons and draft horses were available for moving heavy items. Some livery stables were basic, simply providing transportation and boarding. Others offered amenities such as a dressing room where ladies could freshen up after a carriage ride.

W.H. Ball owned the livery in Devils Lake. It was described as magnificent – clean with well-cared-for horses. Ball always provided the latest equipment. The people of Devils Lake thought it was the best livery in the state.

But in the early 1900s, life was beginning to change. On this date in 1907, Ball announced a major addition to the services he offered. The new addition was a twenty horsepower Ford touring car. If the venture was successful, Ball expected to add several more cars. Tom Slutz agreed to serve as chauffeur. Tom was described as “a rattling good mechanic,” so guests could travel with confidence that he would keep the vehicle running properly. It was expected that sightseers would be interested in renting the car to visit “the many points of interest near the city.”

The Devils Lake Inter-Ocean expressed its full support. The newspaper said the price was so reasonable that the traveling public would respond enthusiastically. The meaning of “horsepower” was changing forever.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher


Devils Lake Inter-Ocean. “Auto-Livery.” Devils Lake, ND. 31 May, 1907.

The Daily Progress. “Livery Stables Were Staples in Community.” Charlottesville, VA. 11 May, 2009.