The Gilmore Car Museum, located north of Richland, has often supported the Vicksburg Old Car Festival with cars on loan from its immense historic collection of old-time vehicles. This year it has honored the Vicksburg event on Saturday, June 8 with one of its vintage cars, a 1910 Brush Runabout. It will be the center of the display of old cars at the corner of Main and Prairie streets in Vicksburg.
The Brush Motor Car Company was formed in 1907 by Alan P. Brush, one of the early auto pioneers in Detroit. The company was reformed in 1910 as the Brush Runabout Company. In 1913, with the backing of Frank and Benjamin Briscoe, it became the United States Motor Company. With the onset of the Ford Motor Company, the newly formed company failed in 1914. The total production of Brush Runabout from 1907 to 1913 has been estimated to be 13,250 units. As with many early auto pioneers, the Brush enjoyed great success but was short-lived with the development of mass production and changing technologies.
The Brush Runabout was a light open cockpit two-passenger car. It was powered by a single cylinder 12 HP engine with a chain drive to a rear wheel. It is unique as both the front and rear axles were made out of wood and it was sold with solid rubber tires. The cost at its introduction in 1907 was $780, but by 1908 competition had driven the price down to less than $500. By 1912 the company introduced a stripped-down version of the car called the Liberty Brush, which sold for only $350.
One of the most interesting stories of the Brush Motor Company was a unique trip taken by the Abernathy Kids in 1910. Louis and Temple Abernathy, then ages 6 and 9, were known for their many unique long-distance adventures. That year, the boys rode horseback,unescorted, from Oklahoma to New York City, then returned to Oklahoma driving a Brush Runabout, a trip estimated at 2,500 miles. Large crowds met and greeted these two adventurous kids along the way. They met President Taft in Washington on their way to New York and then met former President Teddy Roosevelt upon their arrival in New York City.
Brush advertising used the adventure many times in their promotional materials, noting that the operation of this motor car was so simple that these two young boys were able to operate the Brush by themselves. It is said that local Brush dealers met them along the way as they came into their town and provided accommodations, fuel and service if needed.
The Abernathy family from Frederick, Oklahoma had become friends with Teddy Roosevelt due to the notoriety of their father, Jack Abernathy, for his ability to catch wolves alive with his hands. Roosevelt, a consummate outdoorsman, had heard of this unique ability and in 1905 Jack Abernathy invited then President Roosevelt to his home town where he took them on a successful hunt, including catching a live wolf bare handed. At that time Oklahoma was a U.S. territory. Roosevelt later appointed the father a U.S. marshal.