Monday, December 14, 2015

The Ontario Motor League & Dr. Perry E. Doolittle

I found these two stickers on some metal siding from a dismantled shed.  I was able to remove them, and plan to stick them on the sidecar attached to my 1968 Norton Atlas.

At the turn of the last century, there was strong popular opposition to automobiles, especially from farmers and civic authorities. Farmers complained that cars startled their horses, and cars were seen as exclusive playthings of the wealthy. To counter this perception, various groups were founded, including the Toronto Automobile Club in 1903. In 1907, it joined with clubs from Hamilton, Ottawa and Kingston to form the Ontario Motor League (OML). In 1913, the Canadian Automobile Federation held its first meeting in the Toronto offices of the OML, changing its name to the Canadian Automobile Association in 1916.  

The CAA was energetically led by Dr. Perry E. Doolittle, the first physician in the area to make his rounds by automobile. He is also given credit for buying the first used car in Canada--a one-cylinder Winton in 1899.  However, previous to that he was a passionate bicyclist, winning more than fifty cycling trophies between 1881 and 1890, including the 1883 Canadian championship.  In 1885 he wrote a book, Wheel Outings in Canada.  Doolittle also said to have constructed the nation’s first motorcycle. When the automobile appeared, he wholeheartedly embraced it. In 1925, he was the first Canadian to drive from Halifax to Vancouver, behind the wheel of the first Canadian-built Model T Ford. By 1927, he had logged over 240,000 kilometers and become something of a folk-hero.  Earlier in his career, he helped lobby the government to remove the 8 mph provinicial speed limit by forming a motorcade and taking MPPs for a ride at 10 mph.  As a result, speed limits were raised to 10 mph in the cities and 15 mph in the countryside. The CAA also created a program to improve children's knowledge of traffic safety, many of whom still viewed cars as "magic machines." Doolittle was also largely responsible for establishing the convention of driving on the right side of the road, convincing officials in British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island to change to this system.  By doing so, as Doolittle kept pointing out, they too could take advantage of the money being spent by touring American automobile drivers.   Doolittle was also instrumental in pushing for the Trans-Canada Highway and was rewarded for his efforts with the title of "Father of the Trans-Canada Highway."  Stretching 7,821 kilometers (4860 miles) from St. John's Newfoundland to Victoria, B.C., it is the longest national highway in the world. The halfway point is at Chippewa Falls, Ontario, where in 1964 the OML built a small cairn commemorating Doolittle's contribution to the development of the highway.

The OML eventually became CAA Ontario.

For a fascinating look at early motoring in Ontario, visit Historicist: Those Vicious, Devilish Machines.

No comments: