Duluth, Minnesotas First Speeding Ticket

Horse and Buggy

How Fast is Too Fast?

Before the invention of the automobile, the horse and buggy was the traditional means of transport for those with a little money in their pockets. This mode of transportation had its drawbacks, such as the unpredictability of some horses’ behavior and the inevitability of the mess they left in the street. Although there were many problems associated with the horse and buggy, not many citizens of Duluth, MN were worried about the speed at which they were travelling. But city government then, as today, seemed to relish the chance to pass a law where none was asked for, and set a speed limit on the city streets. The speed limit was set at “the walking gait of a man”, and applied mainly to Lake Avenue, one of the city’s main streets at the time.

On January 6th, 1872, an employee named Trowbridge from Pratt & Co., a local retailer, was driving a team of horses carrying Mayor Clinton Markel, ex-mayor Culver and William Nettleton, a real estate baron turned state legislator. Trowbridge was seen driving at the brisk speed of “a fast walk” by Officer Thompson. Presumably, Officer Thompson was able to simply walk right up to the buggy. The fine for Trowbridge’s misdeed was $5, plus another $3 for court fees. That translates to an astonishing $1,875 today. Understandably, Trowbridge could not pay this hefty fine, so the good Mayor Markel took up a collection in the local taverns until the fine was paid.

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