Transportation: The Automobile or Devil Wagon

The Andrew Family in a “devil wagon”, c. 1920 <br> Dorothy Forsythe Collection, City of Charlottetown Archives

The Andrew Family in a “devil wagon”, c. 1920
Dorothy Forsythe Collection, City of Charlottetown Archives

As early as 1866, the first steam powered horseless carriage, in what would become Canada, was driven by Father G.A. Belcourt in Rustico, Prince Edward Island. By 1905, approximately 5 of what would be considered modern fossil fuel and electric powered automobiles were being driven on Island roads. Because the machines were loud and smelled foul, the vehicles terrified horses and became the focus of a great deal of animosity among the general public. Some locals even referred to the automobile the “devil wagon”! This hostility led to the ban of the automobile from public roads and streets in 1908. There were only 7 cars on the roads at this time so it did not affect many citizens. By 1913, the new Automobile Act allowed for cars on the roads three days a week. The regulations were further loosened in 1916, perhaps due to Islanders’ change in attitude towards the vehicle as it became more commonplace. Finally, in 1919, a new Act was passed to allow automobiles on Island roads seven days a week.

 

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