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About the Photos

Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs, 20 to 200 megabytes in size) from the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) Many were digitized by LOC contractors using a Sinar studio back. They are adjusted by your webmaster for contrast and color in Photoshop before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here.

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • GEORGE WASHINGTON CROSSING THE PIES

All This for $295

All This for $295

"Argo auto, price $295." The short-lived Argo automobile ("The car you've hoped for, at a price you never expected") at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington circa 1915. View full size. National Photo Co.

 

Practicality

What I like about the origins of autmobiles was the connection the earlier designs had with horse-drawn carriages. These early cars weren't built like today's totally-enclosed-with-all-the-comforts-of-home models. This (and many) models didn't have doors or windows, let alone any temperature controls (although I'm sure to be corrected here). These were just meant to get a body to another location faster than a horse could. Of course there was a prestige involved, but luxury accessories wouldn't come for a few years yet. I'd love to hear city leaders of the time having to debate on the merits of the advent of automobiles.

Nowadays.

The funny thing is, while you couldn't give them away in 1915, you could buy a fleet of Model Ts with what that Argus would probably bring at an automobile auction these days.

Well, before the economy got lean.

200 Orphans

This was certainly a sort of "Wild West" period in automobile manufacturing. Everyone and their brother were starting a company, with many failing, as happens when a new market is created.

Hemmings has a blog entry derived from a period magazine (Motor Record - March 1917) listing "orphaned" makes at that time. There must be well over 200 listed: Orphans of 1917

Argo et el

They went under because not enough people bought the cars. Which were not that great a value. The Argo (designed by the Briscoe brothers, whose earlier Ajax car was sold in France and England) was barely cheaper than a Model T, and there's wasn't much of a market in America for teensy, low-clearance two-seaters. For a little more money from the big manufacturers, you could get a much bigger vehicle with many more service and parts locations.

I'd buy one

Does anyone know why they didn't catch on?

Low cost cars

In the 1920s Ford Motor Co. was selling a pickup for under $300.

Unaltered Glory

Rather refreshing to see a building on Shorpy that still exists in an unaltered condition (at least the exterior).


(1980 photo by Dane A. Penland)
Hi-res version available at the Smithsonian [warning: ~6MB!].

A cyclecar

The Argo was a cyclecar (I think) - they had a brief popularity here in the States, little bit longer in the UK.

[The Argo had a four-cylinder water-cooled engine. - Dave]

 
THE 100-YEAR-OLD PHOTO BLOG
Shorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photo blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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