Grumpy 1833 letter calls BS on car-maker's extravagant claims

Jalopnik's Jason Torchinsky discovered an 1833 letter to Mechanic's Magazine in which one "Junius Redivivius" spends two highly entertaining pages debunking the elaborate claims made by Dr. Church's Burmingham Steam Carriage Company about its forthcoming wares.

If that drawing be a correct representation of the vehicle constructed by Dr.Church, it is in itself conclusive evidence of his utter unfitness for the purpose of promoting steam locomotion... the thing looks like a car of Juggernaut, intended to be moved only under the influence of a strong internal excitement, rather than a vehicle intended for the purposes of everyday utility. It looks like a mountain, and a mountain scarcely to be moved. If there is one form of carriage more liable to overset than another, it is that of three wheels in a triangle...

...In the drawing all the wheels are of one size, and "Impartial" states them to be eight feet in diameter. Thus, the heads of the outside passengers, who are so comfortably and leisurely seated on stick chairs or benches on the roof, must be some four-and-twenty feet from the roadway... I fear the pedestrians would outstrip them in speed... and ask, as they pass 'what the temperature may be at that height?'

As Torchinsky notes, Redivivius was right, "Church's lumbering steam-beast did not, in fact, run as planned, and later reports suggest it only made one trial run, in 1835, for three miles before becoming damaged while making a turn."

This 1833 Letter Is The Very First Instance Of Calling Bullshit On An Automaker


  1. Redivivius may have been right about Church’s vehicle; or not. For instance, clearly, in the picture, not all of the wheels are of the same diameter. Putting that aside, there’s some fascinating disruptive technology / unhappy incumbents stuff in the early development of steam carriages for the road. Goldsworthy Gurney, who arguably got further than most in building steam carriages with a view to commercial operations, was kyboshed in large part by the horse carriage trade which, in concert with toll road operators, managed to get tolls for steam carriages set at impossibly high levels; and then resurfaced roads with loose gravel designed to bog down Gurney’s machines. These sorts of actions, and the whole Watt / Trevithick / steam engine patent wars, are 180 year old lessons contemporary legislators still will not learn.

  2. The letter writer concluded, “And if anyone shall disagree with the contents of this letter, that person is certainly a homosexual and/or mother-fornicator, and I will certainly chuckle aloud at that person’s ignorance.”  And thus YouTube comments were born a full 170 years before there was a platform to host them.

  3. I love that, “How’s the weather up there” has survived for so long. Some jokes just don’t get old.

    1. Conversely, some would say that there are jokes that got old before the first time someone said them.

  4. >”…damaged while making a turn.”  
    Reminds me of the Reliant Robin on Top Gear (UK):

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