[Oeva-list] Portland Oregon as an early EV hotbed

Myles Twete matwete at comcast.net
Mon Oct 15 22:55:43 PDT 2007

Put on your old-timey hat and sit back folks...

Did you know that:

→ as early as 1914, Portland Oregon was an activist center for EVs
→ there were several pictures of early electrics in several of the 1914 and
1915 Oregonians
→ On page 6 of the Jan. 3rd, 1915 Sunday Oregonian an article appeared
entitled "Battery Cars Success ---- More than 90 miles covered before
running down----Distance is considered remarkable for one charge and proven
worthy for suburbs"
→ Electric car dealers in 1915 in Portland included Milburn Light Electric
(Will Spalding (110 13th St.)), GMC Electric Trucks (Columbia Carriage and
Auto Works at 209 Front St.), Detroit (23rd and Cornell) and Waverly
Electrics (Gibson Electric Garage and Battery CO. at Alder and 12th).
→ Portland boasted "the Only Exclusive Electric Garage and Charging Station
in the Northwest" ---- Gibson Electric Garage & Battery Co. at Alder and
12th.  There was also an ad for the Multnomah Garage "Electric Vehicles
Commercial and Pleasure Stored, Charged and Repaired" --- 6th and Madison.
→ Portland Railway, Light & Power Company as well as the Northwestern
Electric Company promoted EVs
→ on November 21st of 1915, a full page of EV articles and ads appeared in
the Sunday Oregonian on page 8, sponsored by personal and business members
of the Oregon Chapter of the NELA (National Electric Light Association) and
EVAA.  Ads included ads for Detroit, Waverly and a photo ad for Milburn
Light Electrics.  Newly elected Portland Chapter officers of the National
Electric Vehicle Association were noted and their photos included----Lewis
H. Reese was the new President.  This full page of EV activity was featured
in the 1917 NELA (National Electric Light Assoc.) 39th convention Electric
Vehicle Section report (70pg hard cover book) as evidence of the Portland
chapter of the EVAA and NELA and their activity in support of EVs.  The
Portland Section was the 1st EV Section report listed, followed by St.
Louis, Chicago, Philadelphia, Toronto and Western New York sections.
Clearly Portland was proud to be representing EVs on the west coast!  Though
membership in NELA (joined with EVAA on Mar. 10, 1916) by Oregonians was
only 17, only 11 states had more EVAA members than did Oregon in 1916.
→ An Electric Vehicle Parade was announced in an article in the Nov. 28,
1915 Sunday Oregonian boasting expected parade attendance of 25 electric
cars and between 25 and 40 electric trucks.  Parade route was from 19th to
3rd street downtown between Burnside and Morrison…not a big route, but a
good route for a parade.
→ on December 5, 1915, nearly a full page in the Sunday Oregonian (page 8)
was devoted to electric cars including ads from local Milburn dealer, GMC,
Exide, Gibson Electric Garage and others.  Articles on that page included
"Electric Plant is Biggest In World ---- Detroit Builders have huge tract
devoted to Battery Powered Machines", Millions inElectricity --- Once cent
buys what ten bought twenty years ago" and "Electric Gain Big ----
Remarkable Advance Noted In Battery Construction".  At the top of the page
appears an ad for Detroit Electrics as well as a large photo inset of a Mrs
Lydia Wyatt and her daughter in their 1916 Milburn Light Electric.  One
photo of a society woman in an electric mentioned it was her 3rd electric
she had owned and how she so much loved driving them.
→ 2 pages before that December 5, 1915 electric feature showed this
headline: "Gas Price Soars --- Additional Rises in Motor Fuel Price
→ Exide Batteries and Westinghouse EV Motor dealers also were in town (boy
could I use some old Westinghouse DC motor brushes and housings from 1915
for the 1911 Hupp-Yeats I'm building…)
→ Women were featured in most photos in electrics---pretty much emphasizing
the ease and reliability of EVs…interesting that today's EV emphasis is the
antithesis of emphasizing EV's as a vehicle for women, with the focus today
being speed and power over range, comfort and reliability.

So there's your brief historical look at early EV activism in Portland.
I'll follow up later with a more complete look at that era locally.
I think WWI put a big damper on EV demand and materials availability as
aluminum became more and more needed for the war (Detroit Electric bodies
were all aluminum) and likely there was a big push to recycle old clunkers
for the great war.

-Myles Twete

the 1916 National Electric Light Association Electric Vehicles

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