Iowa History Daily: September 29 - Iowa's First Auto Fatality

Iowa History Daily: On September 29, 1905, Fred Harriman skidded off a road near Hampton in Franklin County and into history as the first Iowan killed in an automobile accident. The local financier, attorney, and well-respected citizen crested a hill and lost control of his new Oldsmobile, caroming into a bridge and ultimately coming to an untimely end in his new ‘horseless carriage.’

Driving often proved dangerous in the early-automobile era for a variety of reasons ranging from poor road conditions to uncertain mechanical performance, and driving at night took on new dimensions of danger. Setting out for a late-night drive on a pleasant September evening in the open-topped car, Harriman and four friends including the namesake of Beed’s Lake State Park hopped in the car.

Tooling around North Iowa, the five friends visited the neighboring town of Geneva before heading back toward Hampton. Around 10:00 p.m., and just a few miles south of Franklin County’s seat, Harriman ‘guided’ the car over the top of rise and shot down a hill at a speed of at least 30 miles per hour. Harriman lost control on the way down and struck the bridge at a high speed.

The 32 year-old Harriman died of his injuries, leaving behind a wife and two newborn (six week old) twin daughters. Each of the four friends fortunately escaped with minor injuries, as well as stories of how they survived Iowa’s first fatal automobile accident. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryCalendar


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