Streetcar Accident in Mobile

Two early twentieth-century modes of transportation collide on a 1920's street.

Photo courtesy Erik Overbey Collection, The Doy Leale McCall Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of South Alabama

In the 1920s, personal automobile ownership skyrocketed. It caused the convergence (and sometimes the collision) of electric streetcars and automobile traffic on Mobile’s streets, as seen below. Based on the 1925 license plate on the wrecked vehicle below, this photo is estimated to have been taken by Erik Overbey in or around that year. The tire cover is from Adam’s Tire Service, a local automobile business, which appears in the Mobile city directory under that name around 1926. It is listed as such until the early 1930s. The man in the photo is wearing a fedora and the young boy a flat cap, both popular men’s hat styles of the day. The flat cap was predominately worn by the lower class while the fedora was favored by the upper class. The baseball ad on the side of the streetcar could potentially be for Monroe Park, which was created as a destination for riders of the city’s electric streetcar system. Mobile’s streetcar system remained in use until 1941.

Timeline of Alabama License Plates: 

1906: Alabama’s earliest-known plate for an automobile is issued by the city of Birmingham. This plate is assigned to a 1904 6-cylinder Ford.

1911: Alabama officially requires residents to register motor vehicles and display license plates.

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1933: The license plate coding system switches from classifying vehicles by horsepower class to classifying them by weight class. It retained the same letter system.

1941: The numerical county-code system still used today is established. Mobile was assigned code 2 as the second-most populous county of the time.

1951: A law adds a heart shape and the phrase “Heart of Dixie” to Alabama license plates, which first appeared on 1954–55 plates.

1955: Alabama releases its first license plate to adhere to the standardized license plate size (6 inches in height by 12 inches in width).

1980: Alabama adopts a registration system based on the first letter of the registrant’s last name. We still use this system today.

By The Numbers

30 Acres
The land covered by Automobile Alley Historic District on St. Louis Street, the hub for car business beginning in the 1920s.

The Ford Model T, above, was the first mass-affordable automobile, accounting for almost half of cars produced in the U.S. around 1918.

The approximate price difference between a fedora and a flat cap in the 1920s. A flat cap cost about $1 while the fedora cost about $4.

25 Cents
The cost of a gallon of gas in 1925. In 1922, there were only eight gas stations in Mobile. By 1928, Mobile had a total of 30 gas stations.

Do you know any further details about this photo? Let us know! Email [email protected].

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