Sunday, July 14, 2024

The First Cars To Appear In Canada’s Capital

In the late 19th century, cars began to appear on a massive scale. Various experts worked for many years on their development both in Europe and North America. They wanted to create a versatile vehicle with which people could easily move around city streets without using additional horsepower or the power of other animals.  In the late 19th century, the invention of the first automobile was also seriously considered in the Ottawa territories. Learn more at

The first successful production car in Canada 

In Canada, Warren Soper was the first investor in automobile production. He worked for many years in the electrical business in Canada’s capital city and, in particular, owned the Ottawa Electric Company. In 1899, Warren Soper bought a number of the best Canadian companies, which were involved in the manufacture of bicycles, and created a new unified company, Canada Cycle & Motor.

It was this company that first launched mass production of cars. Among other things, the company produced Ivanhoe and Russell electric cars between 1901 and 1904. Canada Bicycle & Motor became the first and most successful mass-production car company in all of Canada.

A luxury of the wealthy and inaccessibility to the ordinary people

In Ottawa, automobiles in the late 19th century and early 20th century were exclusively a means used by the wealthy. The ordinary residents of Canada’s capital could not afford such a vehicle. Even before the car was put into mass production, it was made to order in small workshops.

Accordingly, the cost of such transport simply skyrocketed. At the end of the 19th century, a car could be bought in Ottawa for $2,000 to $2,500. This amount many times exceeded the annual income of the average worker. 

Despite the enormous cost, there was a demand for cars in Ottawa among the wealthy. After all, at the end of the 19th century, it cost more than $200 per month to maintain a two-horse carriage. At the same time, its maintenance included the monthly costs of:

  • the upkeep of each horse
  • horseshoeing
  • the services of a veterinarian
  • a coachman’s salary.

At the same time, renting a new car with a driver would cost only $180 per month. That amount also included the cost of repairing the vehicle. Thus at the end of the 19th century, the wealthy residents of Ottawa began to switch in large numbers to the new mode of transport.

What did the first car that drove through the streets of Ottawa look like?

The first car made in Ottawa was a bit like a carriage.

The first car made in Ottawa was a bit like a carriage except for the car, which had a steering control lever, a brake and a dashboard. The battery of the first Ottawa car was hidden in its body, while the battery level meter was directly in front of the driver. Under the driver’s seat were two buttons that could be used to turn the power on and off. The gearbox in the car was completely enclosed and protected from any dirt or dust. It was attached to the bottom of a car interior. This vehicle weighed over 400 kilograms and cost about 1600 dollars.

Drivers without a license and the first accident

When mass production of the cars was launched, the cost of the vehicle dropped, making it affordable for almost everyone in Canada’s capital city. In the early 20th century, cars began to appear on a large scale in Ottawa, accompanied by many complaints about inept drivers who frightened animals and pedestrians. In the earliest years of the car boom in Ottawa, drivers didn’t have to take an exam to get a driver’s license.

The very first accident involving a car in Ottawa occurred in 1903 on Laurier Avenue. That was when a driver hit a man getting off a streetcar.

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