In 1899, horseless carriages were the talk of the town. Studebaker ordered one from the Winton company and soon announced they would add horseless carriages to their carriage offerings. There was general disagreement over whether such contraptions would amount to anything, but some thought strongly that they were the transportation of the future.

In September of that year Martin Beiger and his wife drove one of these “automobiles” to Bremen, accompanied by a “Mr Ford” and his wife. Beiger was the Mishawaka manufacturer of rubber boots and felt boot liners; his company became Ball-Band and produced some of the first rubber-soled athletic shoes. There’s no way to know for sure if “Mr Ford” was Henry Ford himself, but he was certainly experimenting with making automobiles at the time.

1899 - first auto in Bremen - Enquirer - 15 Sep 1899

It was 1903 that Jacob Vollmer became the first person in Bremen to own an automobile. He chose a Rambler in red (not related to the later Nash Rambler), which the Bremen Enquirer‘s wary editor described as “the color of death and destruction.”

1903 - Jacob Vollmer - first automobile - 28 May 1903
c.1903 Rambler

Soon, Dr. Charles Nusbaum bought his own auto, but the first one proved to be inadequately powered, so he took it back and found another.

1904 - Doc Nusbaum different car - Enquirer - 19 May 1904

We don’t know what type Doc Nusbaum’s 1904 auto was, but by 1912 he’d be driving a Ford Model T, like a million other Americans. Here he is with it in front of his building on N Center St.

1912 - 100 Block N Center Street looking west

In 1905, Bremen’s postmaster, James Ranstead, purchased the third documented Bremen car, a Ford Model C, forerunner of the Model T (which would come along in 1908).

1905 - Ranstead third auto - Enquirer - 5 Oct 1905

Ranstead and Nusbaum then became Bremen’s first automobile dealers. In 1906, Ranstead accompanied blacksmith and buggy- maker John Brougher to Chicago to get a 22-horsepower Buick Model F.

1906 - Brougher fourth auto - Enquirer - 7 Jun 1906
Brass and Class 1906 Buick Model F Touring

Then came Dr T D Smith and his 1906 Maxwell.

1906 - TD Smith buys Maxwell - fifth auto in town - Enquirer - 30 Aug 1906
1906 Maxwell

By 1907, J R Dietrich had caught the bug and got himself a fine Pope-Toledo, one of the most expensive and luxurious offerings available and boasted a full 50 horsepower.

1907 - JR Dietrich buys Pope-Toledo - sixth auto in town - Enquirer - 5 Sep 1907

The local newsman seemed to foresee the future world his posterity would be living in when he spoke in 1907 of how common the automobile had become and its noise and stink, noting that Bremen then had eleven cars–altho some of them didn’t run anymore.

1907 - rise of automobiles - Enquirer - 8 Aug 1907

By 1910, John Doering had a garage on S Center St selling Ford Model Ts side-by-side with horse collars and buggy whips. Horse and buggy would remain popular in Bremen at least until the 1920s.

1910 or so - Doering Buggy & Car Shop 100 Block S Center east side

But it wasn’t strictly 4-wheelers that captured Bremen’s attention. The Koontz/Kuntz brothers became particularly became enamored of motorcycles and sold Yale bikes to friends and neighbors. Here they are on the Kuntz farm NE of town about 1913.

1913 or so - Kares collection - 117

These and many other articles and photographs are available in our Flickr album in our online archives. Click the forward and next buttons to view the slideshow or click an image to got to the Flickr page.

1923 or so - Schurr, Arnold Hugo leaning on car