by Nancy DeWitt
In August of 1908, a Pope-Toledo touring car arrived in Fairbanks on the Steamer Cudahy. It would be the first automobile to be driven on the streets of this Gold Rush town, but it was not the first Pope-Toledo to arrive in the far north. In 1907, two Pope-Toledos were imported to Dawson City, Canada by entrepreneur Stanley Scearce and roadhouse owner Captain Hubrick. The New York Times noted that Hubrick’s 40-hp auto, called the Red Devil, was kept busy all summer ferrying miners for $10 a ride. Scearce’s 1906 Pope-Toledo (also dubbed the Red Devil in one article) was used as a taxi on the frozen Yukon River during the winter of 1907-08, and made at least one run to Alaska’s Forty Mile River.
|Photo courtesy of the Pioneer Museum and Joan Skilbred|
Photos indicate that the first Pope-Toledo in Fairbanks was a 1907 Type XII Touring. Owner David Laiti had it on the road by August 6, causing much excitement among the townspeople. It only took 24 hours for the big maroon car to earn the nickname of—you guessed it—the Red Devil. Laiti immediately began an automobile stage to Fox and also carried excursion parties around town. By April 1909 the Pope-Toledo had been acquired by garage owner Jack Baird, who continued to use it for a passenger service to Fox. Dave Courtemanche purchased the Pope-Toledo later that year and put it to work carrying passengers between Fairbanks and Ester.
|Photo courtesy of Frances Erickson|
Fewer than 10 Pope-Toledo touring cars survive today. So far we have located ones in California and Oklahoma, and hope that some day one of those will migrate north to Alaska.