1905 Kalispell Ordinance: Automobiles
I recently found an online directory of Kalispell City ordinances and thought it’d be intriguing to see what some of the ordinances of the past were. If I can find enough interesting material, I hope to share one from each year up until now. This week’s post will cover a Kalispell ordinance I found from 1905.
In 1900, there was a population of 9,375 in Flathead County. Currently, in 2022, the census indicates 24% of the people in Flathead County live in Kalispell. Assuming the same was true in 1905, we could estimate that perhaps 2,250 people lived in Kalispell. The energy.gov website indicates that in 1905 only .94 per 1,000 people owned a car. With that calculation, there were probably very few people who owned or drove cars at that time. But evidently there were enough for the Kalispell City Council to write an ordinance regarding automobiles.
The July 5th, 1905 ordinance is not numbered but was somewhere around #170. The three page directive can be summarized as follows (italics are mine):
- No person should drive, run or propel an automobile at more than 8 miles per hour (eight!)
- When approaching any intersection within Kalispell, they must reduce speed to less than 8 mph.
- No person should race any automobile (there must have been a reason that was added!)
- It is unlawful to drive an auto without a bell or horn and lamp. Also, a driver must sound their bell at least 30 feet before reaching an intersection.
- When approaching “any vehicle drawn by a horse, mule, horses or mules” an automobile driver must make sure the horses or mules are not frightened, and if they are, they must stop until the animals are okay.
- All drivers must “propel” their vehicles on the right of the center of the street.
- Anyone violating these provisions would be punished by a fine not exceeding $100 or by not more than 60 days jail, or both.
A fine of $100 could have been a quarter or fifth of someone’s annual salary, so the city council meant business with the last provision! Also a car cost around $500 in 1905 which would have taken an entire year’s salary to purchase. The fine for driving over 8mph was a fifth of the cost of a car!
There are now places in Montana with speed limits that go up to 80, and here in Kalispell there are some roads in the area that are 65-70mph. And of course, Kalispell in the current day is full of stop signs, traffic lights, and all sorts of ways to keep people in the correct lane. So we certainly have changed since 1905!
And what about the fine for speeding? In 1905 it was up to $100. Now it ranges from $20 to $200 depending on how fast over the speed limit you are going. If only 1-10 miles over, it’s $20 and my guess is in 1905, that’s probably the most someone would speed by. So the fees for being caught have basically decreased. Imagine if you still had to pay 1/5 the price of a car as a speeding ticket? I wonder if that would make people would stay under the speed limit!
And there you have it, another blast from the past of Kalispell Montana. I wonder what I’ll find the next time I peek into the Kalispell Ordinances?
As always if you have any real estate related questions, feel free to give me a call on 406-270-3667 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.