Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Detroit Public Library - NEW Digital Resource

Last night, the Detroit Public Library [DPL] completed a mass digitization project pertaining to its Special Collections holdings, including over 33,000 images from its National Automotive History Collection [NAHC].  For those of us in the Gulf South, this is an incredible resource because it includes digital reproductions of early twentieth-century levees, roadways, cities, towns, automobile parades and "tin-can" camps. The digital collection is especially strong for Florida, where early automobile enthusiasts ventured in great numbers.

The image clipped above relates to Captain Walter Wanderwell and a drive he took through a flooded road in Mississippi.  According to historian Dan Treace -- who is currently building a replica of Wanderwell's Unit 2 -- in 1919 the former POW purchased a used Ford chassis in Detroit, Michigan and had it shipped to New Orleans, where it was modified. The Times-Picayune reported that it was retrofitted with a water tank and fifty-four-gallon gasoline tank. Wanderwell headed out from Atlanta on September 22, 1919 in order to retrieve his new car.

Asked to comment on Louisiana's roads when he arrived in New Orleans in March 1920, Wanderwell remarked, "'Louisiana has some of the best roads and some of the worst. When we were a little way out of Bogalusa it took us six days to make sixty-five miles, which we make in an hour on a good road.'"(1)

From New Orleans, Wanderwell, his wife, mechanic, photographer and correspondent headed West on the Old Spanish Trail.

Read more here.

Access the collection here.

(1)"Peiczyniki [sic], Touring World, Is In Orleans." The Times-Picayune 15 March 1920.

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