Not dated black and white photo of Thread City Garage. Courtesy of:

  The 1910s were a decade in which cars became more available to the population as they were mass produced for lower prices.

First Auto Owners & Registrants

  As stated by local historian Tom Beardsley, the first person to own an automobile in Willimantic was Ernest P. Chesbro. Mr. Chesbro owned a steam powered vehicle, and has been recorded to have driven his friends around the city in 1901. He was the first to open an automobile dealership in Willimantic and sold the first car ever in Willimantic. The first resident of Willimantic to register an automobile was DeWitt Clinton Hill in 1903. He was then followed on by A.G. Turner, Samuel Adams, Louis H. Jerome, Fred Bugbee, and Maro V. Palmer. 

Local Ownership 

  By 1908, there were approximately 50 automobiles registered in Willimantic. A small group of those owners organized into an Automobile Club that was associated with the state club. Two years later, there were 65 registered automobiles and 7 motorcycles in Willimantic. According to the Federal Highway Association, in 1910 there were about 10,000 automobiles registered in the state of Connecticut and by 1919 there were over 80,000. The number of registered automobiles in the decade of the 1910s increased exponentially. An important distinction the Department of Motor Vehicles made is that vehicle owners whose registrations expired could re-register their vehicles again but had to wait for the highways to be in better conditions before doing so.

  Of these 10,000 registered vehicle in Connecticut, it would have been possible that some owned more than one automobile at a time. Most likely more affluent folks were those who owned more than one automobile as cars were a status symbol characteristic of the higher classes. 

Manufacturers & Dealers in Connecticut

  According to Connecticut's 1910 laws concerning motor vehicles and registrations, there were 8 manufacturers of automobiles and 298 dealers. The Willimantic business directory for 1909-1910 lists only 3 businesses under the category of "Automobile Dealers and Repairers":

  • E.P Chesbro
  • Arthur Hill
  • The Windham Garage