Bobby Sheldon’a auto-buggy was first automobile built in Alaska | Sketches Of Alaska

The car or truck in the drawing is an vehicle designed by Robert. E. “Bobby” Sheldon at Skagway in 1905. Bobby was born in Snohomish, Washington, in 1883. In 1897 he and his father landed in Skagway, headed for the Klondike. Regrettably, his father suffered a heart attack ascending the Chilkoot Path and returned to Seattle, leaving 14-yr-outdated Bobby in Skagway.

Bobby supported himself at very first by promoting newspapers, with Soapy Smith being 1 of his regular customers. He afterwards labored on the Bracket Toll Street (George Bracket was the developer). The highway predated the White Move and Yukon Route Railway (WP&YRR), and was the initially effort to strengthen William Moore’s rugged pack-horse trail (nicknamed the Lifeless Horse Path) about the White Pass.

Bobby experienced a natural affinity for mechanics, and moved on to preserving the engines of modest steamers plying the waters between Skagway and Juneau. He eventually worked for the WP&YRR, and then Skagway’s ability company.

In 1905, even though working for the electric power corporation, he turned enamored of a youthful Skagway lady. An additional of the lady’s suitors was the son of a rich space resident and experienced the use of his father’s horse and fancy buggy for courting. Bobby, attempting to tip the odds in his favor, made the decision to impress the lady by making from scratch “one of those new gasoline driven buggies” he had been studying about. He mentioned in interviews that he experienced in no way noticed a person in person, owning only appeared at photos of, and examine about cars in publications.

With a paucity of funds, he assembled an vehicle using railway baggage-cart wheals, a house-created body and body, two stools from a saloon, a two-stroke maritime motor salvaged from a derelict boat, some gears and bicycle chains cobbled together into a travel line, and miscellaneous other scrounged parts. Not seeking to look the fool if his development was a disaster, he tested it in late-night solitude. The automobile ran, it’s velocity topping out at 15 mph.

His car did not sway his supposed girlfriend, although. She allowed Bobby to give her a couple rides close to town in his vehicle-buggy, but she married the other fellow.

Bobby’s car is touted as the to start with vehicle constructed in Alaska, but numerous people today also believe that it was the Territory’s 1st automobile. Nevertheless, historian Nancy Dewitt has penned that prior to 1905 various gasoline-driven motor motor vehicles passed by means of Skagway on their way to Dawson in the Klondike. If any of them were driven less than their possess electrical power from the docks to the railroad station, they could declare the distinction of currently being the initial vehicles in Alaska.

Its attract as a chick magnet dashed, Bobby’s auto was not pushed much immediately after that initially summer season. It was set in storage and in 1908 Bobby moved to Fairbanks. He did not depart his enthusiasm for vehicles guiding while. In 1913 he bought a Ford Design T and had it shipped to Fairbanks. Later that calendar year, soon after earning dollars driving travellers close to the Fairbanks place, he grew to become the initially man or woman to drive an auto in excess of the path from Fairbanks To Valdez. He afterwards owned an car phase line, and then managed the bus concession at Mt. McKinley Nationwide Park (now Denali Nationwide Park and Protect).

In 1934 Bobby donated his Skagway creation to the University of Alaska, and it was shipped to Fairbanks. Where just it used the upcoming couple of decades in uncertain, but in 1972 it was moved to the college museum, the place it was on exhibit for about 30 years. It is now on loan from the College to the Fountainhead Antique Automobile Museum. Bobby’s vehicle-buggy can be found at the antique automobile museum’s spot in Lemeta.

Ray Bonnell is a freelance artist, author and longtime Fairbanks resident. See extra of his artwork at


• “First Car in Alaska?” Nancy DeWitt. Fountainhead Antique Car Museum site. April 2, 2012

• “The Path, The Tale of the Historic Valdez-Fairbanks Trail that Opened Alaska’s Wide Frontier.” Kenneth March, Trapper Creek Museum. 2008

• “Trailblazer on Wheels.” Phyliss Downing Carlson. In Take Me Absent magazine. August 1981

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