Carl Reese TDA Contributor
Jacob M Murdock a wealthy business man from Johnstown PA and his family set out be the first family to drive coast to coast in a car. I know many of you think Clark Griswold was the first, but actually Murdock gets credit for the very first family road trip in an automobile. On this trip he also officially secured the record as the longest journey by the same driver.
Murdock and his family would escape the cold winters of Pennsylvania and vacation in Southern California. His second home was located in Pasadena Ca. The family would travel back and forth by train.
Inspired by a recent report of someone driving an automobile from Paris to Peking (Beijing today). Jacob decided to make other arrangements for getting back home to Pennsylvania in the spring of 1908. Jacob purchased a used Packard with 5400 miles on it for $4200.00.
Even after reading about the arduous journey from Paris to Peking. He was determined not to let difficulty stand in his way. In his book he said “anything can be done, one way or another”. When asked “Why he did he do it?” Jacob felt he never had a satisfactory answer. He claims “The idea of a transcontinental journey just built”. In preparation he talked to western ranchers and others. They discouraged him from attempting it. Surprisingly, when he talked to the family, they were “up for it”.
My favorite quote from Murdock….. “My mind got on the idea of a transcontinental journey until it became an obsession” That statement embodies the American Spirit and the same reason records are broken today. We as a human race will never be satisfied with the status quo.
Taking up six of the seven available seats in the car was his wife Anna, his three children Lillian, Alice and Milton, a mechanic and a friend.
In those days gas stations didn’t exist. Murdock had to write letters to shop keepers along his planed route in advance to “order” gas from local hardware stores. These stores would sell sealed containers of gas for machinery, little did they know that they would be the first “service/gas stations”.
In the early morning of April 24th 1908 Murdock loaded up his family and set out from Pasadena, CA on his way to New York City. Driving only during daylight hours, Jacob took a leisurely pace. Much like David Simpson, Jacob insisted on doing all the driving himself. He took Sundays off and the family rested. Once they reached their primary home in Johnstown, PA the family freshened up and took two days off to rest. After a two day pit stop they continued the final leg into New York. With all that Jacob still managed to set a time of 32 days 5 hours and 22 minutes. The family ended their trip at Central Park on May 26th 1906. An overzealous police officer interrupted the interviews with reporters and told him to get his muddy car out of Central Park. Thus starting the love hate relationship that continues on today.
Jacob Murdock secured two records:
- First family to drive coast to coast.
- The longest automobile journey by a single driver.
You may think this is slow compared to Ed Bolian’s and Dave Black’s time in 2013 of 28 hours and 50 minutes. You would be correct. However, The majority of Jacob’s 3674 mile trip was across open country side, following railroad tracks and not any paved highways. Whereas Bolian and Black put the petal to the metal on nicely paved freeways.
Jacob was driving an “Packard 30″ with a whopping 30 horses. Ed and Dave on the other hand had a few more ponies under the hood.
Countermeasures included a Winchester 30-30 for his son Milton whom kept an ” Unavailing warfare on the coyotes”
The transcontinental runs will get shorter and shorter over time. Perhaps Jacob didn’t understand the significance of his record. But the human race wouldn’t exist as we know it if we were not compelled to do better. It’s why the past and present records are important. It’s in our DNA to improve on every aspect of life. The bottom line is, men like Elon Musk will invent better technology to not only drive cars faster and more efficient, but into space as well. One day our great, great, great grandchildren will be racing each other to the Mars colony if Elon has his way.