Apr 4, 2013

An Old Car

Today's vintage photo features a family proudly seated in their shiny (new?) car with the top down. The car is shown from the side, and we can see the entire vehicle from front to back. Dad sits at the wheel next to a toddler in the passenger seat. Mom is in the back seat, next to a little girl wearing a tall, white bonnet.

 Now, we aren't car experts by any stretch of the imagination. But a little detective work suggests to us that the photo probably dates to the 1910s, and that the car is probably a Ford Model T touring car.

We started by trying to date the photo. The people seated in the car look like they are wearing outfits typical of the 1910s. Take the woman seated in the back, for example. She is wearing  a white blouse, buttoned high to her neck, and a dark-colored, undecorated hat with a flat crown and flat brim. This style of blouse and hat were common attire for women during the Edwardian era of the early 1900s. Although Edwardian hats commonly were decorated with flowers, feathers, and other fancy accessories, the simple hat worn here would have been perfect for a dusty outing in the family convertible.

If the woman were to step out of the car, we would probably see her blouse tucked tightly into a long, dark skirt with a cinched waist, along with black tights or socks, and black shoes or boots - like the women seen in these photos:

via Isimaya
via Sitting Pretty
Going back to the car photo ... the father sits proudly in the driver's seat, one hand on the wheel, and the other arm slung up over the back of the seat. He wears typical working man's attire, including a light-colored shirt, overalls, and a soft, felt hat similar to a fedora. Note the similar attire worn by the working men in these photos:

Negative - Copy
Steam Traction Engine & Work team, Victoria, c. 1910. via Museum Victoria

A farmer with his team of oxen, c. 1910. via Rib Lake Historical Society.

All in all, based on the family's attire, we can be fairly certain that the photograph dates to the 1910s, or possibly the very, very early 1920s.

Which brings us to the car. When I first saw the photo, I immediately thought of Ford Model Ts. Not because I know anything about Model Ts, but because the Model T is such a well-known cultural icon.

A little research confirmed that the Model T was, indeed, a good possibility. Ford introduced the Model T in 1908. It cost $850, which was much less than other cars available at the time. After Ford introduced the assembly line in its factories in 1913, Ford was able to drop the price of the Model T significantly, making it much more affordable for the average American family. It wasn't long before they were selling like proverbial hotcakes. Between 1913 and 1927, Ford produced more than 15 million Model Ts.

We did some digging for images of Model Ts, and ran across these examples of Model T touring cars. They look pretty darned similar to the car in our photograph:

The 1918 Model T four-door touring car purportedly used in Laurel & Hardy films, to be auctioned on Saturday.
1918 Model T four-door touring car purportedly used in Laurel & Hardy films, and auctioned in 2011. via New York Times. 
1920 Ford Model T 3-Door Touring Car. via Collector Car Price Tracker.

Et voila. It looks like we have a Ford Model T three- or four-door touring car, probably dating to the late 1910s. Detective work completed, mission accomplished. 

If you're a car expert, and think I've come to an incorrect conclusion (or if you agree with my conclusion), please let me know!

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