Early Automobiles on Mackinac Island
Mackinac State Historic Parks
The Historic Automobile Ban
Afraid that the new-fangled sputtering motor cars would scare their horses, Mackinac Island carriage tour drivers turned to the village leaders for support. On July 6, 1898 the Mackinac Island Village Council banned "horseless carriages" from its streets.
"Resolved: That the running of horseless carriages be prohibited within the limits of the village of Mackinac." — Mackinac Island Village Council, July 6, 1898
Summer cottager Earl C. Anthony ignored the automobile ban and brought his Locomobile to Mackinac Island in 1900. While driving in Mackinac Island State Park, he frightened and hurt several horses and wrecked some carriages. In response to this accident, the Mackinac Island State Park Commission outlawed automobiles in the park in 1901. Today travel on Mackinac Island is by foot, horse and carriage or bicycle.
One Hundred Years Later
On July 6, 1998 a turn-of-the-century automobile made a rare appearance on historic Mackinac Island to commemorate the anniversary of that automobile ban. Glenn Miller of Dearborn, Michigan drove his 1901 Geneva steam-powered car on Mackinac Island's Market Street. Miller's car is similar to the steam-powered Locomobile—believed to be the first car on Mackinac Island. Miller towed his vintage car in a trailer up I-75 on July 5, loaded it in a freight boat headed for Mackinac Island on July 6, then drove it in town for the festivities. The car arrived and departed by freight boat near British Landing on the northwest side of the island. After being driven from Mackinac Island's City Hall to Marquette Park where it was displayed, it was towed off the island by the Mackinac State Historic Parks' horse-drawn dray. Not since the filming of Somewhere In Time in 1979 had passenger cars been driven on Mackinac Island.
Cars Converge on Mackinaw City in 1924
Although cars are not welcome on Mackinac Island, they bring visitors to the Mackinaw City area. 1924 marks the first year in which great numbers of cars converged on Michilimackinac State Park, known today as the reconstructed 1770s fort and fur-trading village Colonial Michilimackinac, a National Historic Landmark. That year 65 different makes of automobiles were parked at the Straits of Mackinac campground. Among the cars parked there in 1924 were: 689 Fords, 211 Chevrolets, 206 Dodges, 187 Buicks, 93 Studebakers, 84 Overlands, 50 Reos, 45 Hupps, 44 Nashes, 43 Willys Knights, and 40 Oldsmobiles. Cars came from as far away as Florida, Oregon, Arizona and California. But with Mackinac Island's ban on automobiles, those cars never came to the island—only their passengers were welcome.
Photos and Text: Courtesy of Mackinac State Historic Parks.
Mackinac Island State Park Commission (1999). "Early Automobiles on Mackinac Island". A Michigan Auto Tour. Michigan Historical Museum.
Also see John Serba, "A guide to Michigan's M-185, the only U.S. highway where cars are banned", MLive, March 30, 2018