Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Duplicitous Roadsters Camouflaged and Otherwise

Advertising auto (c1919), Conover T. Silver
Above and below Views of World War I-era cleverly modified roadsters  designed by Conover T. Silver (C.T. Silver Motor Company, New York), for patriotic postcard use (below), and later, during Prohibition, as promotional advertising for “near beer” made by Anheuser-Busch (above).

Anon, AUTO THIEVES BUSY IN WEST: Iowa Suffering Worse Affliction Than in 1917 Through Camouflage Bandits, in The Standard (Springfield MO), July 6, 1918, p. 19—

Auto thieves are reaping a bountiful harvest all over the middle west this year. Over 2,000 cars were stolen in Iowa alone during 1917, and the operations of card bandits during the first half of this year indicate that their total steal for 1918 will far exceed last year’s record.…

According to the authorities, there are today half a dozen clever gangs operating in Iowa for the sole purpose of stealing autos. Their ingenuity in making away with machines, and then disguising them so that they cannot be recognized, is said to be almost beyond belief.

One pair of bandits, still at large, has a trick of getting away with a car that is real camouflage. The pair drive up in greasy mechanics' overalls, approach a car, parked in front of a building or garage, and commence to tinker with the engine. For several minutes they work industriously at their apparent task. Then they jump in the machine and ride away. Even the most suspicious person would mistake the pair for a couple of mechanics assigned to look over the auto in question.

…After the pair get out of town with the machine they usually take it some place to have it repainted. The license number is changed, and the stenciled number on the engine block ground off, and a new number put on.

Patriotic postcard (c1917), Conover T. Silver

Anon, AUTO THIEVES WORK BOLDLY, in Wichita Daily Eagle (Wichita KS), December 9, 1918—

The up-to-date [auto] thieves operating in Rochester NY drive their loot out into unfrequented parts of the country, run the car in a field and camouflage it to resemble a broken down shed, hay stack or pile of brush. The police have recovered a number of these camouflaged cars since the scheme was discovered through a confession.…

John G. Williams, an Omaha NE pioneer, at a meeting of the Nebraska Roads Association, called to discuss the passage of the anti-auto-theft law, “with teeth in it,” recommended hanging as a punishment for auto stealing. “If we string up a few of them it will discourage the others,” he said. “It discouraged the horse thieves in the old days,” he said.