First automobile arrives in Seattle on July 23, 1900.

  • By Greg Lange
  • Posted 2/26/1999
  • Essay 957
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On July 23, 1900, an automobile travels on Seattle’s streets for the first time. It had passed through Tacoma, which gave that city its first sight of an auto as well. Ralph S. Hopkins (ca. 1871-1923), "a capitalist," is the owner of the three-horsepower Woods Electric auto.

When Woods Motor Vehicle Company produced this vehicle in 1899, there were only 4,000 automobiles in the United States. The company continued manufacturing this electric-powered motorcar until 1919, making it one of the longest-produced electric-powered autos in the United States.

After Hopkins purchased the vehicle from the Woods Motor Vehicle Company in Chicago, he drove it to San Francisco. This took him five months. Only occasionally was he forced to transport it by railroad.

Hopkins claimed to be the first man to cross the continent in a motor car. He stated that his automobile was the second car seen in Portland and the first in Tacoma. Hopkins claimed to be the first to drive any vehicle on the ocean beach between Aberdeen and the Columbia River in southwest Washington.


"Operated First Auto on Streets of Seattle," The Seattle Times, September 3, 1916, p. 13; "Ralph S. Hopkins Dead," Ibid., May 13, 1923, p. 5; The New Encyclopedia of Motor Cars Third Edition, ed. by G. N. Georgano (New York: Dutton, 1982). 
Note: This entry was corrected on August 3, 2018.

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