Join the Conversation

Join the Conversation.
I invite your comments, suggestions, and additional information about any topic mentioned.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

L. L. Peddinghaus, The Rambler: When Driving Was a Real Adventure

L. L. “Lew” Peddinghaus operated a Marietta jewelry store in 1905 at 187 Front Street. He must have been successful because he was able to afford new cars every year or so. That was a big deal at the time.

Driving was really an adventure then. Hardly anyone owned an automobile. Cars were not used for everyday transportation but for recreational outings. The auto was kept in a garage or barn when not used. 

Photo of the Lew and Edith Peddinghaus in their 1907 Rambler automobile at the old Marietta Country Club, image from an unknown publication.

Mechanical problems were routine on most trips. There were few creature comforts - passengers were prepared to get wet, muddy, cold, hot, sunburned, windblown. Roads were marginal at best; few were paved. Directional signs were not reliable; getting lost was part of the adventure.

Photo of the Peddinghauses in their 1908 Rambler (on the left) and Mr. and Mrs. Tom Sheets who were having car trouble. Photo from S. Durward Hoag collection, viewed at the Washington County Local History and Genealogy Library. Notice the license plate on the Rambler, "28" with OH monogram but no date. This was the first year that Ohio issued automobile state license plates.
1908 Ohio License Plate image from

The Rambler moniker fit well - it was the name of the automobile that Peddinghaus drove, and it described his wayfaring spirit. The Rambler was an early automobile produced by Thomas B. Jeffrey Company, maker of the Rambler bicycle. The car was manufactured in a former bike factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rambler was a pioneering brand, introducing such features as a steering wheel and spare tire. The advertisement below listed the price at $1400, about $35,000 in today’s dollars.

Print advertisement for the Rambler - early 1900s. Image courtesy of Washington County Local History and Genealogy Library

Restored 1904 Rambler photographed in the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run in 2010, viewed at

Lew Peddinghaus and his wife Edith - were frequent travelers. Lew kept meticulous notes on each trip - usually matter-of-fact even in trying situations, sometimes amusing, always fascinating. Fortunately, his journals were preserved, and now reside at the Washington County Genealogical and Local History Library. Quotes in this article are from Peddinghaus's journal or his notes.

This book was published to record automobile trips. There were meticulous details, from the date and time to the weather, distance, and incidents.

Peddinghaus documented what he called the “Rambler Reign,” the period of 1904-1909 when he owned four Rambler automobiles. Each was described in detail, for example, the 1905 model:
“No. 2 Rambler: (1905-1906) Rambler 5489 Type 3, Weight 2300 lbs, 18 hp Ave. speed 30 MPH. Two cylinder opposed, 5 & 6, single chain drive, Kahki top, olive green, Surrey Model (Without the fringe on top.) Veedometer, Hartford shock arresters.”

Here are records of a few trips from in his journal:

One of the shortest was a problem-plagued trip from his home on Front Street to the Marietta Country Club, then located in Devola.
Date: July 3, 1907
Time of start: 7 pm
Guests: Mrs. Gallagher, Miss Gallagher, her friend Miss Hubbard, Edith
Incidents: picked up passengers. “When got to road near dam, key in left rear wheel worked loose;...could not repair it. (Passengers) walked to streetcar, on the way telephoned Andersons. After waiting an hour and a half, Kale came with Mr. Baxter and Buick. Kale then started after a rope (for towing) and after an hour,...found one. Hitched on and started towing us....the Buick broke down. Worked about an hour, and found one of the valves sticking. Reached home at 11:25 pm.“ No indication of frustration in his journal - just the facts.

There were often multi-day trips covering hundreds of miles. One such trip took them to Cleveland and back over 10 days in September, 1906. Their circuit included Zanesville, Columbus, Dayton, Lima, Sandusky, Cleveland, Wooster, Zanesville, and back to Marietta. Peddinghaus kept incredible details. On that trip, the vehicle operated for 37 hours, 16 minutes covering 624.1 miles, with an average speed of 17.05 miles per hour. There were journal entries for each day of travel. How many times have you recorded these details of your trips?

Here are some of his notes for that trip; each segment was a day's travel:

From Marietta to Zanesville: Average speed 13.2 mph, drove through rain, put on tire chains to navigate the muddy road, “every one wet.,” stopped to repair hub brakes which locked up, “I got into poison ivy.”

From Zanesville to Columbus: Average speed 20.7 mph (very good for the time); stopped to replace a link in broken chain. Peddinghaus often recorded humorous details: for example in Columbus: “George (Alexander, one of his passengers) stuck on girl in drug store, bought everything she offered. Hair tonic etc.”

Columbus to Dayton: a rare problem-free travel day: “Roads...level and fine. Everything working fine, no stops, and no trouble.” 

Dayton to Lima: “Had trouble getting out of Dayton and from here on got lost in every town we went through.” 

Lima to Sandusky: Averaged 22.15 mph. Fair dinner at Tiffin - Peddinghaus often commented on meals or lodging. “Tried to turn out (pull over) for a team of horses; (car) sank into ditch. Got out easily. Teamsters bid us a merry ‘ta-ta.’ Next time they turn out, not me.”

Cleveland to Wooster: Rain in am, cloudy in pm, “crossed ‘Brooklyn Bridge,’ came to toll gate paid 7 cents and had 19 miles of good brick pavement, another toll gate and pay 4 cents fair dirt road all way to Wooster.”

Wooster to Zanesville: “A day of trouble!” Muddy road; tire chain caught on mud guard; clutch failed on long steep hill - recruited 2 boys with horse team to pull them up the hill. “Met team (of horses) on hill; woman claimed her horse would never pass one of ‘them nasty things (automobiles),’ have been lost in every town we passed through. Clutch failed on hill below Dresden. Got dark. Too late for supper at Clarendon in Zanesville. Hardest day and most trouble have ever had.”

Zanesville to Marietta: Another challenging day. Muddy. Averaged only 12.8 mph. Started out but had to return to have high speed clutch tightened. Engine missing badly; bridge out, changed plugs near Malta. Mrs. Alexander visited her uncle in McConnelsville. At Beverly George Alexander saw “a good looking girl leading a horse which (was) frightened (by their) car and took off down a road. George liked this girl’s appearance so well that he chased the horse and finally returned it to the good looking girl.” No comment on Mrs. Alexander’s reaction to the good looking girl incident. Arrived home at 6:45 pm.

In 1908 they drove to New England with a Dr. and Mrs. Howard Smith and their son Lawrence. The trip started on an uncertain note: "Leave Marietta expecting to go to Berkshires...May not get there. Car is heavy (with luggage and passengers) and overloaded." It was a characteristically bold Peddinghaus venture, driving that far in an open vehicle, fully loaded with 5 people, with the constant threat of breakdowns, rough roads, bad weather, and poor road signage. They were gone 23 days. His journal reflects his great satisfaction with a successful trip: "1748.7 miles - one puncture - valves slipped twice - pump leaked - radiator leaked. Never had to stop. Always reached (destinations) on time. Good car - delightful trip." 

Thanks to Lew Peddinghaus's pioneering spirit and journal notes, we have a fascinating glimpse into early auto travel.

Note: The Peddinghaus Jewelry business was sold in 1918 to Walter A. Baker (your author's grandfather) and his cousin Henry Baker. The store became Baker & Baker Jewelers. The business continues today under the ownership of Larry Hall and his family.

1 comment: