No Automobiles

A Homestead Headlines Article by Chuck Oldenburg
June, 2003
The March 12, 1903 Marin Independent Journal front page headline was: “A QUESTION OF IMPORTANCE – Shall the Automobile be Excluded From Marin County?” A petition was in circulation asking the Supervisors to prohibit the use of automobiles in Marin County.

The petition admits that this astonishing machine has come to stay and that it has a place and a future, but its place is not in Marin County, and if its future is there, it should be a far distant future, for the following reasons:

1. The residents and taxpayers don’t want it. They realize the danger, the annoyance and the anxiety which it creates, and they beg the county government to protect them.

2. The physical characteristics of the county are such that it is peculiarly ill adapted to the use of the automobile. This whole peninsula is composed of high hills and deep and narrow valleys where the roads wind with many sudden and steep grades. There are side hills where, on one hand the precipice falls sheer a hundred feet or more and on the other the bank rises perpendicularly from the road. There is scarcely a single stretch of five miles of wide straight road in the entire county where automobiles can be safely run, so that it is impossible to place sufficient restrictions upon their use to secure us from ever present peril.

3. Marin County is essentially a horse keeping and a horse loving county. The very features which make the roads impassible if frequented by automobiles, render them especially attractive for riding or driving. At every turn beauty meets the eye. There is no other region in all California where there are so many and such beautiful drives, and during all the fine weather, children on their ponies, young girls in run-abouts and carts, men on horse-back or driving fine teams, families coming to town or out for a holiday, give life to the whole countryside. And would not many desirable new residents be attracted hither if it were once known that here at least there was a refuge from the constant menace of the horseless carriage?

4. The automobile in Marin County can never be more than a plaything for a few fortunate individuals who have a surplus of time and money.

The May 21, 1903 IJ reported that the supervisors had met and decided that automobiles will not be banned. After the vote, the California Automobile Association took the supervisors for a ride. [Could this be lobbying? – ed.] Only one horse was spooked and that was the fault of the driver of the buggy, not the chauffeur of the car.


If you have comments or questions about this article or other topics
pertaining to the history of Homestead Valley,
please feel free to e-mail Chuck Oldenburg.