Off-Roading In The '20s Called For Camouflage Blankets, Fireworks And A Gun

In the 1920s, a rural society in Pennsylvania tried to enforce some pretty wild rules for anyone driving in the countryside.

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A vintage Ford parked in a field
Motorists in PA during the 1920s had a lot of weird rules to follow.
Photo: Ford

When a new mode of transport bursts onto the scene, its launch is followed by a flurry of legislation to manage its use. This isn’t something that we’re seeing for the first time as self-driving cars begin populating our streets. In fact, it also hit regular, human-controlled cars when they first appeared.

One organization in the U.S. even came up with its own set of recommendations for drivers in rural areas. And went as far as attempting to have them enshrined into law.

In rural Pennsylvania, an organization called the Farmers’ Anti-Automobile Society took offense to the appearance of “horseless carriages” on roads and in the countryside. So, it published a pamphlet of rules and regulations for all drivers across the state. And, as I’m sure you’re expecting, some of the group’s suggestions make for a fairly funny read.

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A white American Model 50 Roadster parked at a golf course
Don’t forget to pack enough fireworks for your journey home from the golf course
Photo: American Motor Car Company

Published at some point “from 1915 until 1924” the Rules Of The Road has nine pointers to keep rural Pennsylvania safe from the onslaught of the car.

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And, as it’s a farmers’ organization, many of the rules posed have seemingly been written to protect horses and cattle, rather than PA natives.

For example, the society suggests that if a driver sees a horse they must pull over and cover their car with a “blanket or dust cover, which is painted or colored to blend into the scenery”.

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The pamphlet adds:

“In case a horse is unwilling to pass an automobile on the road, the driver of the car must take the machine apart as rapidly as possible and conceal the parts in the bushes.”

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Imagine having to tear apart your Impreza whenever you meet a horse on your morning commute.

But, there’s more inconvenience when it comes to driving home at night. Then, you’ll be required to “send up a red rocket every mile and wait ten minutes for the road to clear”.

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Drivers are also asked to toot their horns or “fire a revolver” when they’re 100 yards from a corner. And, the society called for the state to impose secret speed limits to encourage motorists to drive slowly.

A black and white photo of a line of Model T Ford cars
Could you dismantle your Model T if a horse tried to trot past?
Photo: Ford
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Finally, it asked members of the Farmers’ Anti-Automobile Society to give up their Sunday and spend it “chasing automobiles, shooting and shouting at them, making arrests, and otherwise discouraging country touring on that day”.

What a way to spend a weekend.

You’ll be pleased to know that these rules never quite became law. While they were passed by the legislature, they were soon rejected by the state governor.

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So thankfully, there’s no need to pack spare fireworks whenever you find yourself on a country road in rural PA.