Saturday, June 23, 2007

First Automobile to Enter Yosemite

In 1900, Oliver Lippincott became the first motorist in Yosemite National Park, when he drove there in his Locomobile steamer. Lippincott would start a trend with his visit, as motorists increasingly chose to drive to National Parks, avoiding the more time-consuming train and coach rides. By 1901, a number of other motorists had made the trip to Yosemite, mostly in Locomobiles. A personal account survives from motorist William A Clark, who, with his wife, drove the fifth car into the park. Clark, who traveled from San Francisco, eloquently expressed the miraculous feeling of climbing to the elevation of 7,500 feet above sea level on the Big Oak Flat Road: "Individually, our souls were inspired; mentally, we were enchanted; personally, we could say nothing, for words fail when the Creator lays before us the sublime in the highest sense." Of his arrival into the Yosemite Valley, Clark described a less sublime, but equally sympathetic, brand of satisfaction: "We ran our machine into the midst of a circle of Eastern tourists, seated around a large campfire. To say that the apparition of an automobile suddenly appearing among them called forth general applause and hearty congratulations but feebly expresses it." The automobile is in large part responsible for creating the uniquely American culture of the National Park. The illustration above shows an 1899 Locomobile steamer.

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