Jamestown cars in 1921

Few were in the city in that year.

JSSP Keith Norman Column Sig

Automobiles were big news in the Jamestown newspapers in May 1921.

The congregations of Emmanuel Lutheran in Eldridge and St. John’s Lutheran in Jamestown presented Rev. W.W.A. Kellar with a Ford car on the occasion of his first wedding anniversary.

The car was likely the Ford Model T and cost about $325 at the time depending on the style. According to newspaper reports, the congregations sprang for an “extra tire and all accessories.”

We can assume the church congregations followed the law and had the car licensed and registered although that was a problem in North Dakota.

In May, the North Dakota Motor Vehicle Registration Department gave authority to enforce vehicle license requirements to prohibition enforcement agents.


One of the prohibition agents said, “Whiskey runners usually had no license numbers on their cars,” in the request for the authority.
The same month, a gang of car thieves operating out of Minot was busted by officers all around the state of North Dakota. One high-ranking member of the gang was arrested in Valley City driving a Ford that had been stolen off a Minot dealer’s lot just weeks before.

The Motor Vehicle Registration Department noted that having a license plate on your car was an aid to tracing stolen cars.

Automobile ownership was climbing rapidly in the United States and North Dakota. In 1910, there were just five cars for every 1,000 people in the United States. By 1921, that number reached 97 cars per 1,000 people;
still, far fewer than current vehicle numbers but obviously climbing.

In North Dakota, 66,704 vehicle licenses for 1921 had been issued by May.

“Of this number, 37,221 are for a popular small car,” wrote The Jamestown Alert, referring to the Ford Model T. “The remaining 28,483 are divided among many other makes of automobiles.”

Given that most of the Model Ts were black, it would seem that the traffic going down the road looked an awful lot alike.

Author Keith Norman can be reached at

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