Photo of Seabiscuit with his owner, Charles S. Howard. Image online, courtesy Colonel Michael Howard and the Seabisuit Heritage Foundation.
He was getting so good, he scared me.
I’d never seen the kind of speed
he was showing in his workouts.
He burned the top off the racetrack.
Tom Smith, Seabiscuit’s Trainer
San Francisco was a city dependent on horses when Charles Howard arrived there in 1903.
Automobiles had evolved since Nicolaus Otto invented the gas motor engine (in 1876), Gottlieb Daimler (formerly Otto’s assistant) and Wilhelm Maybach improved that engine (in a shed, outside Daimler’s home, in 1885), and Daimler adapted a Wilhelm Wimpff & Sohn stagecoach to create the world’s first four-wheeled car (in 1886). Those were the early years.
And ... even though Daimler (since 1889) and others - the Duryea brothers (beginning in 1893) and Henry Ford (beginning in 1896) - were building new cars (not adapting previously existing vehicles), automobiles (like the Duryea’s 1896 version - one of America’s first) were the laughing stock of San Francisco’s residents. The “newfangled” vehicles couldn’t even make it up the city’s steep hills.
But Charles Howard viewed the new mode of transportation quite differently from other residents in his adopted town. The man - who soon had exclusive rights to distribute the cars of a new company (called General Motors) in the western United States - had only positive thoughts about the future of automobiles.
He could not have imagined that, one hundred years later, he would be remembered more for a horse than for cars when he said:
The day of the horse is past.
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