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CarMax: 1921

Washington, D.C., circa 1921. "Geo. C. Rice Auto Co., front." These deals won't last long, folks. Come in TO-DAY! National Photo glass negative. View full size.

Washington, D.C., circa 1921. "Geo. C. Rice Auto Co., front." These deals won't last long, folks. Come in TO-DAY! National Photo glass negative. View full size.


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You've got personality

Cars back then were more anthropomorphic. With those big round headlights, this place has more of a feel of a pet store. The autos are waiting to be adopted and set free on the open road.


Fans of the old Rocky and Bullwinkle shows will recall that two automobiles involved in various episodes were the Apperson Jackrabbit and the Stearns-Knight Runabout.

Jackrabbit shifts

The Apperson was the only car of its time that afforded its driver the ability to select a gear ahead of time.

If you saw a steep hill ahead you would slip the transmission into a lower gear, and when the motor started to labor a quick press on the clutch would shift gears. Or you could start with the transmission in low, the shift lever in second, and "She's off like a jackrabbit!"

Making it ideal for "ladies" and the uncoordinated.

Disappearing Brands

Last year I would have made some wisecrack about the brands that this dealer sold. None of them were around. Now we can list Pontiac, Plymouth and Oldsmobile among the missing.

Looking Forward to the Future

Washington Post, Mar 23, 1919

To Handle Stearns-Knight

Geo. C. Rice Auto Co. Will Represent
Builders of Knight Type Motor

Stearns-Knight cars will henceforth be represented in this city by the George C. Rice Auto Company, who has handled the Davis line for the past two years in addition to operating a large garage and accessory store. To better display the new line this company is enlarging its salesroom, which when completed will give a window frontage of 40 feet on H street and a depth of 50 feet.

The Stearns line, built in both open and closed models, was the first to adopt the sleeve valve motor [video] in this country. This type motor had already won recognition abroad, though an American invention. Daimler in England, Panhard in France and Minerva in Belgium use it in their chassis.

During the war the Stearns factory was selected by the British government to build a number of Rolls Royce aviation motors. So large did this business become that by the time the armistice was signed practically the entire factory was given over to this work.

Washington Post, Apr 5, 1978

Pioneer Washington Auto Dealer
Celebrates 100th Birthday

George C. Rice, a resident of Washington, D.C. since the age of four, began his career as owner and operator of a feed, grain and hay business here, adjacent to the Old Center Market on what is now Constitution Avenue. In 1914, foreseeing the demise of horse-drawn transportation, he opened the first Stearns-Knight Agency on H and 13th Streets N.W., selling and servicing such early cars as the Marmon, Davis, Columbia, Dagmar, Fiat and Chevrolet.

Mr. Rice was honored last Saturday at a reception given by his three sons, six grandchildren, and eleven great-grandchildren, most of whom were able to attend. His comments were that surely there is a difference between driving to work in a horse and buggy or a horse car and driving through heavy traffic in the fast cars of today. However, all the new things invented during his lifetime have made life much easier and he is looking forward to seeing what happens in the future.

(click on following ads to enlarge)
1920_noma_auto 1921_apperson_auto

1920_columbia_six_auto 1919_davis_auto


I want one

Putting those prices through an inflation calculator, the range is from the low $4,000's to $27,000 for the Willys. Today's cars are certainly far more complicated and safer, but how much of that price is due to factors that have nothing to do with the actual car?

Great site!

I visite evereday! Greetings from Brazil!

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