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First Car Accident in the U.S.

Early Automobile Industry in Ohio and First Accident

Detroit was not the only early automobile manufacturing hotspot. In fact, Ohio was also highly involved in the early automobile industry. Several automobile manufacturers were located in Ohio, like Winton Motor Car Company, White Motor Company, and Baker Motor Vehicle Company.

The First Car Accident

The first gasoline automobile made in the United States, known as the Buckeye gasoline buggy or the Lambert gasoline buggy, was made in Ohio in 1891. However, the same year, the first gasoline-powered automobile accident would happen in Ohio City involving the Buckeye gasoline buggy’s creator, James William Lambert.  Lambert was driving the first single- cylinder gasoline automobile with James Swoveland. The car hit a root of a tree, which caused the car to zigzag out of control and then smash into a hitching post. There were no major injuries.

Unfortunately, this was not an isolated incident. There were many more automobile accidents in the early times of cars, and several happened in southwestern Ohio.  Below we have compiled some old newspaper stories from early car accidents in Butler County, Ohio.

Walter Johnson Injured

In 1913, a Hamilton man was run over by a car in Middletown. Walter Johnson was struck by an automobile that was carrying seven girls. The owner of the car’s daughter, Edith Wilmore, was driving with six friends very close to the curb. According to the newspaper, the Hamilton Evening Journal, “just as the machine came to the foot of the crossing at Main, Johnson stepped off and was struck.” The automobile ran over both of Johnson’s legs, and he was badly bruised.

Autos Smash, Woman Injured

According to a 1919 article by The Journal News, in Hamilton Ohio, there was some serious reckless driving by a man named Earl Grimm. Grimm was driving at night near the intersection of Bell Avenue and Mt. Pleasant Pike. He drove his automobile into the automobile that a Mrs. Ely was driving. She was thrown out of the car and was seriously injured, but survived the crash.

Steering Rod Not Broken on Car in Accident

A traveling salesman, Alfred Huber, was driving through Middletown in April 1921 according to the Hamilton Evening Journal. What was originally thought to have been caused by a broken steering rod was actually a missing pin. The mechanic who had made repairs on the Dodge automobile did not replace the pin that holds the steering rod in place. While driving, the rod became loose causing Mr. Huber to lose control of his car.

Auto Accidents Numerous

According to a 1923 Hamilton Evening Journal article, that weekend there were several auto accidents. While none resulted in serious injury, many cars were totaled and minor injuries were sustained. An intercity bus was blamed for one of the accidents. Other drivers blamed the bus for “road hogging.” The Ball family was injured on the day. Apparently, the Balls were injured by flying glass when their car was sideswiped by a bus off of Dixie Highway. “According to Ball’s report , a green bus crowded him and sideswiped his car.” There were more complaints on the same day, by Mr. and Mrs. Bennett and Mr. and Mrs. Bert, of road hogging on Mt. Pleasant Pike.

Icy Streets a Menace

It was the 18th of February in 1924 when the Hamilton Evening Journal put out an article explaining the many car crashes that happened due to dangerous roads. This day, one serious, and several small accidents had occurred on the roads. There were many incidents of cars skidding into ditches. There was one incident where a man named Lloyd McVicker crashed into a car and slid against a fire hydrant. He was thrown out of the vehicle through the windshield and sustained serious injuries. A witness explained the incident as unavoidable due to the slippery roads.

Two Injured in Auto Accident

October 7, 1925, The Hamilton Evening Journal reported an automobile accident that injured Mr. and Mrs. Albert Douglass. Mr. and Mrs. Douglass were on their way to a wedding at the Clifford Shultz farm, northwest of Hamilton. They were on a crossroad leading to the farm. An automobile was approaching from the opposite direction and the Douglass’s car was hit into a ditch and overturned. Mrs. Douglas was unconscious when she was found, while Mr. Douglass was also badly injured.

Boy on Bike Hit By Auto, Not Hurt

A 14-year-old boy named Leslie Liming was knocked from his bicycle by a car in October 1925, according to the Hamilton Evening Journal. The driver of the car, Ollie Shuler, hit Liming while driving through an alley between Main Street and Ross Avenue. Shuler claimed that Liming rode past his car suddenly that caused the crash. Liming was only moderately injured.

Girl is Jarred From Automobile

According to the Hamilton Evening Journal, on the 8th of June in 1926, “Lauren Beatly…was recovering today from painful but not serious injuries sustained at 9:15 o’clock Monday night when she was jarred from the running board of an automobile along the Millville Pike.” The car that hit Beatly was being driven by S. N. Maggard. Maggard struck a bump in the road, which caused Beatly to be jarred from the vehicle. Beatly’s left shoulder and both knees were hurt. She was taken to Mercy Hospital where they said she will recover quickly. There were two other passengers in the car. The police claimed the accident was an example of what can happen when automobiles are driven with too many people in them.

3 Killed in Crash

The Hamilton Evening Journal reported that three young people from Middletown and Franklin were killed in an automobile crash on December 6th, 1929. Three other people were lightly injured. The three that were killed, Josephine Krosnanski, 15, William Dotson, 19, and Charles Waidner,20, all suffered damaged skulls. The injured sustained cuts throughout their bodies. They were all traveling together south on Tytus Avenue. With the approach of another vehicle from the opposite direction, the car swerved and skidded 65 feet causing the automobile to turn over, with its passengers inside. The other car escaped without damage or injury. It was highly likely that the driver was intoxicated during the incident as they were coming from a party.


Although cars have become less dangerous over the years due to seat belts and other safety features, it can still be risky to drive in Ohio today. According to the Ohio State Patrol, there were 1,154 fatal crashes across the state in 2020, with 1,230 traffic fatalities and 166 pedestrians killed. Just in Hamilton, Ohio, there were two fatal crashes in 2019, another two in Middletown, and one in Eaton. Most of these accidents are caused by a driving error, like driving distracted. When driving, make sure you are buckled up, and have your focus on the road!  Contact us if you need help.

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