First Car in Carlisle

A piece posted on a website used by educators and students contains a number of significant errors concerning the Carlisle Indian School, so I was suspicious when it stated that Pop Warner was the first person in Carlisle to own a car. Carlisle is the seat of Cumberland County and was then a prosperous place. Logic suggests that the first car in Carlisle would have been purchased by someone in one of the wealthy families. Also, its placement in the article implies that Warner purchased it around 1912, a date that seems late for the first automobile to appear in a county seat.


Carlisle Indian School publications first mention Warner’s automobile in early 1907, shortly after he returned to Carlisle from a 3-year stint back at his alma mater, Cornell. He may have brought the car with him or he may have purchased it with his substantial pay raise. Neither make nor year of the car was mentioned in the school newspaper’s articles. A 1910 article in The Carlisle Arrow informed readers that Warner had bought another cat, a Chalmers-Detroit 30. I had licensed a photo of Warner tinkering with his $15 auto for the Lone Star Dietz biography so checked with the Chalmers Registry to determine if the car in the photo was the Chalmers-Detroit 30. Joe A responded quickly that the car in the photo was a Franklin but not enough of the car was shown to determine the year and model. Franklins were made in Syracuse, NY which was Warner’s home state.


A newspaper article from late 1906 stated that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania had already licensed almost 13,000 cars. Seeing that led me to contact PennDOT which, surprisingly quickly, directed me to a person who might be able to tell me when the first Car was licensed in Carlisle. That person informed me that PennDOT keeps no records on “dead tags,” license plates no longer in use, so has no historical data. Bummer. Boiling Springs historian and photo curator at Cumberland County Historical Society, Richard Tritt, came to the rescue. He informed me that Barbara Bartos has the records for the licenses issued by the county before PennDOT began issuing them. Now I may be able to solve this mystery.

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