Although the first steam-powered automobile built for human transportation was built in 1769 by French inventor Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot with other versions through the years by many other German and French inventors, the first successful gas powered automoblie in the United States, a four horse-power, two-stroke motor, was made by Charles and Frank Duryea in 1893. The Duryea brothers also set up the first American car manufacturing company. These early cars were said to be very scarce, very expensive and not very reliable, according to wikipedia information.
It wasn’t until Henry Ford created the Ford Motor Company in 1903, Producing Models A, B, C, F, K, N, R, and S from 1903-1908 that vehicles changed. In 1908 a more reliable vehicle was on the production line of the Ford Motor Company, the first Model T. The 1913 Henry Ford’s inovation of an assembly line made the Ford Model T the first mass-produced vehicle on a moving assembly line and by 1927, had produced more than 15,000,000 Model Ts. It was an inexpensive mode of transportation due Ford’s futuristic sight, bringing automobiles, or horseless carriages, into the 19th century. They were also known as Tin Lizzies, Leaping Lenas, Jitney or flivver.
The first automobile garage in Hoopeston was built in late 1906 to early 1907. The building was constructed by Jess Kellogg for partners, Harry Knarr, Frank Troxel and Ed LaBounty. The building was a two-story building on the west side of North Market, just north of the Nickel Plate Railroad tracks, with a basement and a hand-operated elevator on the west end of the building to take vehicles to the second floor or to the basement for repair.
This was the first Ford Agency in Hoopeston, according to the 1960 Chronicle-Herald’s interview with Ed LaBounty. The agency sold Model H roadsters and Model S touring cars. In 1910 Knarr and LaBounty bought out Troxel and moved to a smaller building where they also sold motorcycles and bicycles, offering repair service for all of the different modes of transportation.
The two-story building was sold several times before it was destroyed by fire in 1920/21 and later reconstructed as a one-story building. Ed Sheets was located in the building from 1924-1932, operating a hatchery and selling his produce. Herb Wolters next owned the hatchery from 1932 to 1934, when it was then operated by Fagner Produce Firm from 1934 to 1960.
As a side note, Edward F. Trego Jr. returned to Hoopeston from his travels in 1949 and opened an Imported Motor Company, one of only four foreign companies in the United States and the second Porsche dealership to be founded in the United States. He later sold it to John Shakespeare who moved the business to Danville. Trego’s Porsche dealership was located at 214 E. Penn St.