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July 31, 2012 > History: The Automobile

History: The Automobile

The first automobile to travel through Washington Township frightened some horses so much they ran away, "headed for the hills" or the bay, or anywhere away from this smoking, horrifying monster.

The 1898 Special Edition of the Washington Press printed in Irvington has a photograph of George Cash and the buggy he used to deliver coal oil and gasoline to his customers. The paper mentions, "travel by conveyance," but the only cars mentioned are railroad cars. The automobile was being developed and was about to change life in Irvington and everywhere else.

Joshua Chadbourne was interested in mechanical things and what was happening, so he opened the first garage and sales agency between Oakland and San Jose in 1906. One of his first ads read "J. F. Chadbourne, Agent for Rambler Touring Cars and Runabouts, Irvington." The 1908 Sanborn map shows a garage opposite a private road by the I. O. O. F. Hall. This was apparently Chadbourne's. When Joshua sold a car it was usually announced in the local paper with the make of the vehicle along with the price and the purchaser.

Otto Hirsch opened his "Dependable Garage" and was selling Studebakers by 1909. He later advertised the Lexington as "The Thorobred: a New Sport Car." E. H. Hirsch was a dealer for Star, Chandler and Cleveland autos in 1924.

Chadbourne apparently formed a partnership with R. D. Blacow as they were advertising Ramblers and Autocars together in 1910. A two-cylinder Autocar cost $600, a two-cylinder Rambler $500, but a one-cylinder Rambler was only $100. Joshua handled other cars including the Marathon, the Mitchell, the Jeffery, the Dodge and the E. M. F. Studebaker. He jokingly said that the E. M. F. stood for "Every Morning Fix Em." Joshua reported that he drove from Oakland to Irvington in 55 minutes.

Irvington had so many dealers that it was becoming an auto center. Babb and Costa later became distributors for Chevrolet autos. They announced that the 1916 Chevrolet was the lowest priced electrically lighted and started automobile in the world and only cost $570. Roy Canright opened his garage on the San Jose Road.

Ed Rose was operating a Niles bicycle shop in 1905 while people were starting to buy automobiles. Rose and Son advertised "Auto for Hire" at their Fashion Livery Stable in 1909. The livery became a Ford dealership by 1915 and was advertised in 1923 as the "biggest between Oakland and San Jose. His Lincoln-Ford garage was advertised in both Niles and Centerville. His garage was called "Washington Township's Chevrolet Headquarters" in 1934. Ed also sold other cars including the Overland.

Jack and Henry Oliver built their Niles Garage in 1910, and it was declared to be the first auto agency in Niles. They started with the Maxwell and latter added the Chevrolet, Hupmobile, Marathon and Lexington.

B. F. Stone advertised the Argo Motor Car in 1915 as "an efficient, motor vehicle at a low first cost and low upkeep hitherto unapproached." It only cost $375 F. O. B. at San Francisco.

The American Garage was owned by Louis and Caesar Di Giulio, who were agents for Chrysler cars and Hood Tires. A 1930 ad featured the Willys Knight, Willys Six and A.A.A service. Louis later was founder of the DiGiulio Pontiac dealership.

Several garages had been opened in Centerville by 1910. R. W. Emery advertised as agent for "The Merkel" motorcycle in 1909. A motorcycle/auto crash had already been reported.

N. B. Randall owned the Centerville Garage and was agent for Overland cars. The Overland Model 79 cost $1,075 but was $125 more when equipped with an electric starter and generator. Randall was the "Associate Dealer" for the Dodge Brothers Motor Car in 1916 whose "gasoline consumption was unusually low and its tire mileage unusually high."

Sid Holman was the Chevrolet agent. His ad encouraged men to buy a second car "so the wife wouldn't be marooned during the day."

E. L. King and F. W. Madruga were agents for the Nash and later the Graham Page. The Nash boasted of two spark plugs per cylinder. Santos Bros. established a garage while selling Chrysler and Plymouth autos. Joe Adams became a Ford dealer in the Furtado Building and sold about 1,500 cars the first ten years, which included the war years when there were no new cars.

Romeo Brunelli bought Ed Rose's Centerville Garage and Chevrolet agency in 1937 and named it the Central Chevrolet Company. The DiGiulio Brothers moved from Niles to Centerville in 1964 and became the first big firm in the new business district on the Peralta Boulevard extension. Centerville was now the automotive center of the township.

A list of Centerville dealerships in 1969 included Di Giulio Pontiac, Central Chevrolet, King Arthur Toyota, Pierotti, Fremont Motors Co., Mezzetti Volkswagon, Gibson British Cars and Golden Motors.

Traffic congestion on Fremont Boulevard became a serious problem, and the City of Fremont developed plans to relocate auto dealers. Some went out of business. A few moved to Newark and others gradually relocated on Auto Mall.

We have come a long ways from frightened horses to jammed freeways. Now we have to wonder what the future will bring.

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