, , , , , ,


Dr. Blaine in 1910 Maxwell

At the beginning of his medical practice in 1882, Dr. Blaine had few choices for getting around to visit his patients in rural Ohio. He could walk, ride a horse, or take a horse and buggy. By the end of the century, however, a new and exciting means of transportation took center stage: the horseless carriage. And it was a godsend to busy physicians.

By 1905, Dr. Blaine had acquired a small, one-cylinder curved-dash Oldsmobile, the one made famous in song as the Merry Oldsmobile, and drove it around the countryside in all kinds of weather and at all times of the day or night. It was faster than a horse and buggy and cheaper to run. Remembering to fill it up with gas, however, took a while to become a habit. His son Harry remembered vividly one summer night riding with his father back from a house call when the engine started to cough and then died on a lonely country road at midnight. What could they do but walk the four miles into town and retrieve the car the next day! Even in the 21st century, with accurate gas gauges and plentiful gas stations, don’t we sometimes commit the same error?

But one problem we no longer have to deal with is a lack of paved roads. Dr. Blaine at one time kept three cars: the Oldsmobile for summer, a high-wheeled one for winter, and a 1910 Maxwell for general use. And don’t forget the horse as a last resort! The high-wheeled car was probably one of the early autos that were basically buggies with a small gasoline engine attached. The high wheels kept the driver above some of the snow and mud on the roads–that is, if the car had enough power to make it through. Most country roads at that time were nothing but unpaved rutted tracks that transformed into a sticky mud soup after a rain. Any smart driver carried shovels, chains, ropes and other paraphernalia to extricate his car from the gooey mud or high snowdrifts when necessary. The doctor bragged to one of his sons that he had managed to drive 60 miles in one day in the mud in a 1910 Flanders, which had just recently replaced the Maxwell and was, according to the doctor, “the greatest car made.”

With his unquenchable curiosity and love of all things mechanical, Dr. Blaine couldn’t resist tinkering with his cars. The story goes that he completely disassembled his first car in order to understand how it worked and then, thankfully, put it back together correctly. Later, when he had accumulated more than one car, he built a large garage at the back of his house and furnished it with all the tools necessary to repair and maintain his prized possessions. He even installed an underground gasoline system which pumped fuel directly into the autos.

His curiosity and love of excitement also got him into trouble. It had not taken long for early automobile enthusiasts to recognize the potential for car racing as a new sport. Catching their enthusiasm, Dr. Blaine created his own speedster by removing the fenders and windshield on one of his Fords. Nothing was more thrilling than racing around the countryside in his creation, flinging mud in all directions during wet weather! Then the inevitable happened. On the way to a house call, the doctor encountered a farmer backing his hay wagon out of a lane in front of him. Not able to stop in time, the doctor swerved to avoid the wagon and ended up lying in a ditch with two broken wrists. Not a good outcome for anyone, especially a doctor! But it did manage to convince him to put away his dangerous toy and choose safer transportation thereafter.