It was shortly before midnight on Saturday September 18, 1909 when a Cadillac touring car pulled up at the corner of Northwest Ninth and Everett to pick up a party of young women. The Cadillac belonged to William M. Ladd, the wealthy son of the late banker, real estate developer and city founder William S. Ladd. At the wheel was Harry Holland, Ladd’s nineteen-year-old chauffeur and John Robertson, 24, a car washer from Covey Garage and self-described “professional joy rider.” The party of young women included 29-year-old Dolly Ferrara-Martini, the ex-wife of a prominent attorney, and three young factory worker sisters recently arrived in Portland from Minnesota: Anna, Eva and Rosa Meyer.
|The 1908 Touring car was the largest model Cadillac had built up to that time and had no safety features. Picture courtesy of Passion For the Past Blog|
|The accident that killed Dolly Ferrara, coming at the end of a summer notable for traffic fatalities, gained a lot of publicity and turned the public against the roadhouses.|
|Merle Sims (right) became the first Portland motorcycle officer when he volunteered to use his own motorcycle.|
|In 1911 the Police Bureau acquired its first automobile. It was used mainly to transport investigators to crime scenes, rather than as a patrol vehicle.|
Future posts here and on Weird Portland will continue to chronicle the impact of cars on various aspects of Portland culture as we research and write the new book. I hope you will stay tuned. It takes a lot of work and effort to produce this stuff and it pays very little. That's why I rely on the support of my readers. Remember history isn't free. Support your local historian.