Monday, August 29, 2011
Jeffery Quads in Alaska
As the historian for the museum, I love to chase after the stories of the first automobiles in Alaska. Locating photos of these vehicle is a bonus, and finding a survivor--like this 1915 Jeffery Quad--is an even bigger treat. Imagine my delight when I got to not only ride in it, but drive it around the streets of Eagle, Alaska a few years ago!
The first mention of Jeffery Quads I've found in an Alaska newspaper is the May 27, 1915 edition of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. The Northern Commercial (NC) Company had shipped in two on the steamer Reliance for two stage line operators and freighters (Fred Clinton, and Eagan and Griffin). Glowing praise was given to the trucks' four-wheel drive, which was expected to be the perfect vehicle for Alaska's rough roads. The Eagan and Griffin truck was put into operation between Gilmore and lower Fairbanks Creek.
On July 25, 1915, the Fairbanks Sunday Times announced that the City Council had ordered a Jeffery Quad through the NC Company. The plan was to use it as a firehose truck in place of a horse-drawn wagon. Its price, including shipping to Fairbanks, was $3,600. Five days later, the NC Company announced that it was going to replace its own horse-drawn passenger stages with two Jeffery Quads. These arrived on the steamer Alaska on August 26, while the quad ordered by the City Council arrived on the steamer Alameda a few weeks later. Although guaranteed to operate at up to 25 mph, the truck ordered for the fire department couldn't break 10 mph and was easily outrun by the horse team in a test run. On December 13, 1915, the City Council rejected its purchase.
Back on September 22, 1915 the NC Company announced that Alaska automotive pioneer Bob Sheldon, who had run an auto stage line of his own, would manage the new Jeffery Quad stages. The trucks, along with Dodge cars, were to be run between Fairbanks and Chitina to test their utility. Up to 18 passengers could be accommodated at a rate of $100 each, along with up to 1,500 pounds of mail. The company guaranteed "that no one will have to get out and push or walk" during the 6-day trip. The inaugural run south in 'Mose' left Fairbanks with Sheldon and 10 passengers on October 4. 'Big Ben,' with 17 passengers and Maurice Ashton at the wheel, followed on October 7, and Fred Clinton's quad left Fairbanks for the coast with several passengers on October 13. Above is one of the NC Company quads passing through Copper Center. Around October 15, "more snow than was ever known on the trail at this time of year" had fallen in the Alaska Range, stranding all of the stage vehicles, including the quads, between Rapids and Yost's.
Eagle Historical Society acquired and restored it, and it now cruises in the annual Fourth of July parade in this community along the mighty Yukon River. A chassis from another Jeffery Quad also resides in Eagle. Are these Mose and Big Ben? Could there still be two quads out in the Kantishna District? If you find the remains of one, please let us know!