Even though US citizens are allowed to return to Canada, certain requirements are still necessary to cross the border. This was also true about 100 years ago. In the History Center’s collection are several photos, some of which are captioned, showing a parade of automobiles that started in Buffalo and ended in Niagara Falls. Although legends mention several men associated with the Automobile Club of Buffalo, there is no indication of when or why the parade took place. After doing some research based on the names of the men and the approximate date of the automobiles, the story behind the auto parade emerged.
By the 1910s, although automobiles were still considered a luxury that could only be enjoyed by a small percentage of the population, they were becoming more and more common and their owners were pushing for improved road conditions, Additional “guide signs” and the use of illuminated lights. cars when driving at night (this law was finally passed by the New York State Legislature in 1915 after several years of defeat).
The Automobile Club of Buffalo was founded in 1905 to promote camaraderie and safety between owners and drivers of the new “horseless cars”. Based at the Lafayette Hotel in Buffalo in 1916, the club had 4,000 members across western New York State and had built a new “country club” in Clarence for its members to enjoy. However, there was one issue the club hoped to resolve that was directly related to the motor show in the photographs.
At that time, if a New York State motorist wanted to drive in Ontario, Canada, he had to obtain a driver’s license from that province. Conversely, if an Ontario motorist wanted to drive in New York State, they would have to obtain a New York driver’s license. With the proximity of the two countries, and the desire of motorists to move freely between them, this requirement has created an obstacle, especially for tourism.
Beginning in about 1909, the leaders of the New York State Motor Federation and the Ontario Motor League began asking their respective legislatures for an “automatic reciprocity agreement” between the state and the province to allow motorists to cross the road. Canada-US border by requiring only one driver. Licence. This long-awaited resolution finally became official on May 11, 1916, and as soon as the news was received, plans were made for a celebratory parade.
At 10 a.m. on Friday, May 19, 1916, a motorcade of more than 20 cars left Lafayette Square in Buffalo and headed north on Main Street to Niagara Falls Boulevard. Along the way more and more automobiles joined until the line contained over 50 vehicles and was over a mile long when it finally reached Niagara Falls at noon.
A similar procession had formed on the Canadian side. The leading cars of the two nations, containing representatives of state and provincial governments and automobile clubs, met in the middle of the steel arched upper bridge (aka “the honeymoon bridge”) where official documents from the reciprocal agreement was exchanged, as were the flags. of each country. The men then changed positions in the cars, with the Americans joining the Canadian procession and the Canadians joining the American procession. The American column then passed through Canada and combined with this parade while the Canadian cars did the same on the American side. The Canadian contingent then returned to the US side and a total of over 100 cars containing over 500 passengers passed through Niagara Reservation State Park. The entire convoy then returned to Canada, through Queen Victoria Park and to the Clifton Inn for lunch.
Because the reciprocal agreement was intended to encourage tourism, the permits were only valid for 21 days. Motorists with long-term business or family relationships that required frequent trips across the border still needed to obtain permits from both countries. But this joint cooperation between the United States and Canada ultimately led to the construction of the Peace Bridge in 1927, which further facilitated the exchange of tourism and business across this international border.
However, it remains a mystery. Can anyone tell us something about the roller coaster that is in the background of the photograph accompanying this piece? If you can, please email the History Center at [email protected]
Ann Marie Linnabery is Associate Director of the History Center of Niagara.