1800s

*

1889 Rancher Miguel Leonis, known for his rough ways, becomes the area's first recorded traffic death, after getting sloshing drunk and falling out of his wagon in the Cahuenga Pass. Mothers Against Drunk Cowboys is born.

1897 In the dark of night so as not to draw crowds, the first gas-powered horseless carriage built west of the Mississippi takes a test drive down Broadway. Driven by J. Philip Erie, a wealthy New York inventor, it turned east on 6th Street, then south again on Main before turning onto 7th Street. There were four cylinders, but only one was used during the test drive. "It rolled down one slope and up the other without the slightest trouble," The Times reported.

1899 The first flurry of electric vehicles hits the streets, though it's still unclear whether gas or electric motors will prevail. Describing a throng of electric cabs, the term "rush hour" is coined. Eventually — maybe in a week — it will span longer than an hour.

1900s

*

1900 The city's first auto club is formed. The Los Angeles Automobile Club, which will enroll 200 mostly well-to-do members in its first two months, is designed partly as a social group, partly to defend the rights of car owners. In a day ride, a motorcade leaves downtown Los Angeles, stops at Eagle Rock and then motors on to Pasadena. The Times reports: "There was one electric vehicle in the run and it was driven by Miss Anna Hare, who was accompanied by her sister, Miss Bessie."

1902 Just in case horseless carriages don't work out, the city begins a major mass-transit initiative: the Red Cars. The first line runs from Los Angeles to Long Beach. The electric trains eventually will provide 1,150 miles of service in four Southern California counties. Miss Bessie is not impressed.

1906 First used-car ads appear in The Times, including a 1905 Pope-Toledo, a big steel-framed touring car. "In good condition," the ad states. Honest.

1907 Visitors from as far away as San Francisco come to town for the first L.A. auto show, held at Morley's Skating Rink, just four blocks from the current site of the L.A. Convention Center.

1908 A one-pump gas station opens in Montebello, one of the first full-time service stations in the area. Montebello would never be the same. Or would it?

1910s

*

1912 Standard Oil takes out permits to open 35 service stations in Los Angeles. It's the first sign that even then the mom-and-pops wouldn't have a chance.

1915 The first crosswalks are tested at three busy corners along Broadway, modeled after a system used in Detroit. The white lines, painted at intersections where streetcars stop, are aimed at easing congestion.

1920s

*

1920 The first traffic signals go up, on Broadway between 3rd and 7th streets. And the first motorist, late for work, curses his lousy luck.