- Written by webmin
After the Parisian Exposition Internationale de Velocipedie et de Locomotion Automobile in 1894, English technology enthusiast Sir David Salomons was determined England should not be eclipsed by the rapidly developing French industry. “I am deeply interested in our English manufacturers producing a carriage which shall eclipse all others,” he said in The Sketch, and promoted the town of Tunbridge Wells, of which he was mayor, as the host for England’s first auto show.
The Horseless Carriage Exhibition held the next spring at the Agricultural Show Ground in Tunbridge Wells attracted all of five vehicles, which was five more than had been built in Britain to that time. Sir Salomons himself was forced to exhibit a vis-a-vis Peugeot. Determined to erode the stumbling blocks to a domestic auto industry, he started with the biggest: Cars were illegal in England.
Thanks to antiquated “Red Flag” Locomotive Act laws aimed at steam tractors (“locomotives”) and other conveyances, you were not allowed to operate self-propelled vehicles on public thoroughfares without substantial preparation – flaggers and attendants, bonds, and a four mile-per-hour speed limit. Together with Daimler Motor Syndicate founder Frederick Simms, they founded an organization dedicated first, to the legalization of cars, the Self-Propelled Traffic Association.
Simms and Sir Solomons had the first of several falling-outs, and Simms left to form a rival organization, the Motor Car Club. Antagonists but working on the same issues, they were instrumental in gaining passage of the 1896 Locomotives on Highways Act, legalizing automobiles, and coincidental with the first domestically produced Daimler automobiles (Simms had sold his interest the year before).
Ultimately, the SPTA and subsequent Simms clubs reconciled, forming the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland, which later became the Royal Automobile Club, as well as the basis for England’s AA, both vital in advancing motorists interests throughout the early days of the automobile.