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Wyoming’s First Car: The Remarkable Story of Elmer Lovejoy

Hulton Archive, Getty Images
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

When his family first moved to Wyoming in 1884, Elmer Lovejoy already had the need for speed. By the age of 12, Lovejoy was working for the family business; a bicycle shop in downtown Laramie.

As word slowly spread about the invention of a new gasoline powered automobile in 1886, Lovejoy set out to build his own “horseless carriage”.

After spending a year designing and assembling the vehicle, Wyoming’s first car was finally ready for a test drive on May 7, 1898.

The story appeared the next day in the Laramie Boomerang, who wrote, ““there were two speeds in use on the machine yesterday, one of five and one of ten miles per hour. When the machine was on good hard places it acquired a speed of ten or twelve miles per hour.”

Lovejoy drove his new toy on the streets of Laramie for two years before it finally quit running. However, his love affair with cars would continue.

In 1904, he became a dealer for the Franklin Motor Car Company. Unfortunately, early automobile sales were brisk and Lovejoy couldn’t raise enough money to patent his latest invention.

Instead, he sold his idea to help improve steering to another car company for $800. Lovejoy’s steering innovation is still used to this day.

Lovejoy is also credited for another invention well before its time. In 1917, he introduced the first automatic door opener.

At the age of 81, Lovejoy moved from Laramie to California, where he died seven years later in 1960.

His legacy still lives on in Laramie, where the popular downtown hangout Elmer Lovejoy’s Bar and Grill is named in his honor.


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