Thomas Arnold was a successful and wealthy young man in Wichita Kansas after the turn of the last century. In 1903, at age 31, he was the manager and a principle of the Rock Island Lumber and Coal Company, with over twenty locations in Kansas and Oklahoma. One report says it is probably the largest lumber buying company in the United States.
Wichita newspapers carried frequent news accounts of his business and social activities. I think his story is an interesting look into the life of a privileged entrepreneur of the time.
1903, the Arnold's offer a reward for the return of stolen diamonds:
Arnold purchases a building in Wichita for the equivalent of $275,000 in today's dollars:
In 1904 Mrs. Arnold's stolen diamonds are recovered, valued at $1,900. (About $47,000 today):
Mr. Arnold is initiated into the Elks. Another Wichita businessman, J. W. Metz, is in the same Elks class. Mr. Metz will own one of the largest lumber yard chains in the U.S.. Like Mr. Arnold, he will also own a Model K:
Home and business fires appear to have been a constant worry, and the Arnold's suffer a fire at their home:
Mr. Arnold is listed as a buyer of a Rambler in 1906:
Thomas Arnold had several enterprises in addition to managing the large lumber concern, including:
It wasn't long before the new Rambler resulted in a speeding fine:
Mr. Arnold takes the necessary steps to open a bank in Wellington, KS:
And, another incident with the Rambler:
From an interview while on a buying trip in Texas, more background on Tom Arnold:
Another mention of the Arnold car:
The last clip for now, Mr. Arnold and other businessmen volunteer their cars for a visit from William Jennings Bryan. Bryan, a former Nebraska politician, known as the "silver tongued orator" due to his speech making ability and promotion of the U.S. switching to the silver standard, will unsuccessfully be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States three times. For those who recall Spencer Tracy in "Inherit the Wind," Tracy portrays the defense attorney who "dismantles" an aged and dying William Jennings Bryan during the Scopes Monkey Trial:
1906 came and went. In January, 1907, Thomas Arnold, now 35 years old, purchases a 40 horsepower touring car for $2,500. A Wichita newspaper wrote "it is claimed that this is the largest car ever sold in Wichita." For anyone following along, any guesses as to the make and model?
1907 - A Thomas Flyer?
Now I know why we say PBR me ASAP here in Wisconsin. Pabst Blue Ribbon.
40 hp? Touring car? Largest?
Could it be a Reeves Octoauto?
JK, waiting for the story of Mr. Arnold's K.
There was a 6 wheeler too and some of MR Reeves equipment is still in use. A belt made of wood?? Bud in Wheeler,Mi.
Dave, your's is the closest guess (although I suspect it was meant "tongue in cheek"). Not a "Thomas," but a Rambler, from Thomas B. Jeffery:
And again, a little trouble with the car:
Tom Arnold is the first to register his car in Wichita, receiving registration number 100:
great stories Rob, keep it up!
Thanks Clayton. On to 1908, and the "Ford" part of the story......
On March 17, 1908, two Wichita newspapers run stories about the Ford dealership. One account writes that Mr. Evans makes record time bringing the "first six cylinder Ford automobile to this city:"
The second article says Jones and Evans of the Jones Auto Exchange "left last night" by train to bring another "Ford 6-40 touring car back:"
Meanwhile, by early April, 1908, Jones Auto Exchange has several used cars advertised for sale. One is a 1907 Rambler touring car.
Didn't Tom Arnold have a 1907 Rambler that he bought last year?
It looks as though one of the two Model K Jones Auto Exchange brought to Wichita in late March, 1908, is purchased by Tom Arnold. The Rambler listed at Jones dealership may be Arnold's old Rambler:
About the same time, Jones Auto Exchange is running this 3/4 page advertisement in the paper:
On May 20th, the "Wichita Beacon" ran the following story about high priced cars in Wichita. Another Model K is now owned by the other large lumber yard operator and fellow Elks Club member, J. W. Metz:
Finishing out 1908.
In July the Arnold's prepare for a trip east. They have their Model K shipped east, and will tour with it, returning to Wichita several weeks later. This account reports the car requires a large boxcar:
The story is carried in local newspapers and picked up in the "Lumberman" magazine:
The Wichita Beacon carries the news the Arnold's have completed the trip in late July:
In September, Mr. Arnold, like any food Kansas Republican, drives a group of Wichita Republicans to a party meeting:
In October, the Arnold car is dubbed by the paper the most gorgeous in a parade, decorated with flowers (shades of the Portland K):
And, as with other cars Tom Arnold has owned, another accident:
Closing out the year, Tom Arnold celebrates a wager he won with friends. He bet that Governor Charles Hughs, Republican incumbent from New York, would be re-elected, and he was. Governor Hughs would go on to be the Republican nominee for President in 1916, narrowly losing to incumbent President Woodrow Wilson. Hughs would later serve as Secretary of State, and then as Justice, and eventually Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court:
The Governor was coincidentally featured on the cover of the September 1, 1908 "Ford Times," one month before the introduction of the Model T:
Next, and finally, all good things must come to an end.......
13 feet seems awful short for that car, is it correct? a T is about 11', and how the heck do you go in the side of a box car and turn it around? fun reading rob, thanks
Yes, 13 feet. The Model K has a 120" wheelbase, and totals 13 feet, fender to fender. The back seat actually sits behind the rear frame brace, where a T has most of the touring seat in front of the brace/spring.
The article said the railcar used was from Michigan Central Railroad with a six foot doorway for hauling automobiles.
I've noticed when reading Trent Boggess' Ford ledger database, often two Model K or one Model K and two NRS were sent to dealers. My guess is that single rail cars (Ford shipped two K, or four NRS, or one K and two NRS per car), and shipping was probably less when an entire railcar was used for the same pickup and destination. Below is an example, with one K and two N destined for Deright in Omaha Nebraska:
Finishing the story......
Tom Arnold resigned from the lumber business in the spring of 1909:
In late September 09, he advertises the Model K for sale:
And by April 1910 we learn Thos. Arnold has purchased a Cadillac:
It appears Arnold bought his wife a second Cadillac late in 1910. He has now owned two Ramblers, a Ford six, and two Cadillacs between the years of 1905 and 1910:
In late January, 1911, Tom Arnold passes away at the age of 39. He is a victim of tuberculosis, still the second most deadly infectious disease in the world:
Initially I learn of people who owned early Fords, and follow their automobile adventures through local newspaper and magazine reports. In many cases, such as this, the people "come to life" through these accounts, and I get a feel for how they lived, and in some cases, such as this, died.
I'm wondering if Tom resigned or was ask to resign because he was never at work. He was always off running around the country on vacations and had no time to run the business.
Thanks for posting these early adventures of the automobile. I always enjoy them and the happenings of the time period.
It seems most of the high end car buyers take lengthy vacations in these stories. I suspect it's more the European mentality of hard work with liberal time off (for upper class wage earners). I also don't think there was much of a middle class in terms of money making, and so a distinct difference between the haves and have nots. Just my opinions,