What: The History Center will host the Indiana Historical Society's traveling exhibit “Auto Indiana,” which looks at the history of the car in this state. The History Center will supplement the exhibit with displays of auto-related photos and artifacts from its collection.
When: Friday through Oct. 14. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays, noon-5 p.m. Saturdays and noon-5 p.m. the first Sunday of the month.
Where: The History Center, 302 E. Berry St.
Cost: $5, ages 19-58; $3, ages 59 and older and students ages 3-18; and free, ages 2 and younger and History Center members.
Information: 426-2882 or www.fwhistorycenter.com
If only it was this simple now:
Back in the day — really early in the day, from 1905 to 1912 — Indiana residents would register their cars with the state and be given a vehicle ID number. The vehicle owner then could craft his or her own license plate to display that ID number.
People used metal, wood and other materials, said Todd Maxwell Pelfrey, executive director of the History Center.
A leather license plate from that era will be one of the items from the History Center's collection that will be on display to supplement the traveling exhibit “Auto Indiana,” which opens Friday at the museum.
The traveling exhibit, which was created by the Indiana Historical Society, includes four double-sided 4-foot-by-8-foot panels telling the story of the auto and auto industry in Indiana, a news release said.
The exhibit recalls auto inventors and innovators, explores the impact the auto had on people's lives and the Indiana economy, and looks to the present and beyond, the news release said.
The History Center will supplement the “Auto Indiana” exhibit with auto-related items from its own collection. Cars have been a part of Fort Wayne life since 1897, when a resident brought the first one to the city, historian Bert J. Griswold wrote in his 1917 book, “The Pictorial History of Fort Wayne, Indiana.”
Adding local items to traveling and temporary exhibits provides relevant local history information and allows the museum to show items that visitors may not get to see in permanent displays, Pelfrey said.
The homemade license plate, for example, features a strip of black leather nailed to a strip of wood, which then could be attached to the car. The letters on the plate read “B-30-IND.”
“It was kind of on the honor system,” Pelfrey said when asked about the risk that someone could just make up a vehicle ID number and license plate.
The state took over issuing license plates in 1913, starting us down the road to the way it works today.
Some of the other items the History Center plans to display include:
•Large, boldly numbered, state-issued metal license plates from 1915 and 1918.
•A jack for a Model T Ford from about 1915.
“It is a little shaky,” Randy Elliott, History Center exhibitor, said of the small, metal device. “Safety was not the No. 1 concern of early automobiles, you can tell.”
•An Areo Oil Lubster, a pump that could be wheeled up to a car at a service station. After letting the vehicle's oil drain into a pan, the service station attendant could quickly pump new oil into the vehicle.
•A wooden ignition for a Model T Ford. Automakers used a lot of wood in early cars because it was cheap, Elliott said. In addition to parts like this ignition, carmakers used wood for wheel spokes, floorboards and more.
•Several early photos of cars in Fort Wayne, including a 1914 photo that may be the first picture of a car wreck in the city. A few of the other photos show what could be among the earliest cars in Fort Wayne.