Automobiles in Hamilton


James Moodie - John Moodie's son - drives his father's second Winton in 1899.  Moodie's first Winton was the first car in Canada  in April, 1898.The first "horseless carriage" to make an appearance in Hamilton, Ontario, lumbered along King and James Streets on April 12, 1898. It was an 1899 Winton, brought over from Cincinnati, Ohio, by John Moodie. It was also the first gasoline car in Canada, and the second in North America; the first having been purchased by a Pennsylvanian only a day before Moodie bought his.

The first automobile manufacturer in Hamilton was the Schacht (sometimes spelled Schact) Motor Car Company of Cincinnati, which set up on Sanford and Cumberland Avenues in 1911. Other motor industries that operated in Hamilton include:

One of the first license "plates" issued in Ontario, circa 1903In 1913, the Schacht Motor Car Company of Canada was sold to Willys-Overland Automobile Company, and a year later moved to Toronto, Ontario.

A British auto maker, Austin Motors, was set to build cars in east Hamilton in 1948, but pulled out the following year because of tax issues without having manufactured a single product.

By 1903, there were 18 automobiles in Hamilton, and the owners of those automobiles (including John Moodie and Samuel Owen Greening) formed what was the first automobile association in Canada, the Hamilton Automobile Club. The club met yearly to discuss how to further the interests of the automobile in the city and province, and to plan and host get-togethers for the citizens of Hamilton. Their first objective was met, for in 1920 there were 6,000 automobiles in Hamilton. The city's ratio of one passenger car to every 15 people exceeded that of New York, New York; Chicago, Illinois; Boston, Massachussetts; and Toronto. 1920 also saw an increase in the use of "motor-trucks" to ship goods, although trains and boats were still the preferred method.

A 1927 article in the Hamilton Spectator noted the beginning of a traffic problem in the city, especially in the downtown area. The article discussed the interesting paradox of car-ownership: the more people who drive, the further they have to walk from their parking spots.

During World War II, metal was in such high demand for military efforts that no license plates were issued for the year 1944; instead, drivers would put a sticker in the window as proof that the fees were paid.

A bill from the "You Auto Buy Now" campaign of 1958When the steel industry in the United States suffered a strike in July, 1952, a new car shortage forced drivers to buy from used car lots. Despite the shortage, however, that year saw over 70,000 cars and passenger trucks on Hamilton roads, and a continuation of traffic problems. In 1958, the Hamilton Automobile Dealers' Association spearheaded the "You Auto Buy" campaign to encourage people to buy cars now, rather than later. It worked: in 1959, one in every four Hamiltonians owned a passenger car or truck. Five years later the City adopted a new transporation objective, which was to cost $10.8 million over five years. Plans included street widening and improvements, an expressway bypass, extensions, and overpasses.

In 1966, Hamilton lost the last of its automobile manufacturers with the departure of Studebaker Corporation of Canada. Recently there has been a resurgence in the popularity of vintage cars, as evidenced by the number of clubs devoted to their appreciation, such as the British Sports Car Club and the Canadian Classic Chevies Club.

See more pictures of automobiles and automobile advertisements in Hamilton.



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