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Nov 10

When was the first fatal car accident in San Luis Obispo?

This fatal automobile accident was treated as major news in the October 14, 1912 Daily Telegram with the lead headline.

First, last, most, least, winners, losers, newspapers often write stories about definitives.
Timothy Spies was doing genealogical research when he came across a story from October 15, 1912 San Francisco Call claiming to document the first fatal automobile accident in San Luis Obispo. He kindly shared the link with us.
The Call front-page story does not credit the source, likely one of the two independently owned newspapers in San Luis Obispo at the time the Tribune or the Telegram.
The San Francisco paper calls it the first fatal automobile accident in San Luis Obispo.
None of the three stories in the Telegram call this the first, but the paper’s owner C.L. Day had only owned it for 7 months so he may have been reluctant to make the claim. Day had moved here from Long Beach so automobile accidents may have been a commonplace story to him.
It would be interesting to see the stories from the Tribune but we don’t have that edition of the paper in our archive.
The day after the accident, the second day story was pushed down the page when a man tried to murder Theodore Roosevelt.The former president was giving a speech in Milwaukee trying to regain the presidency as a third party candidate. The bullet was slowed by a 50-page speech manuscript and steel spectacle case; even so it lodged in former president’s chest. The bullet was never removed and the wound healed. TR is one of the presidents to have visited the county. He was in San Luis Obispo May 9, 1903.

From the October 14, 1912 Daily Telegram:

Estee Morganti killed as auto turtles
Powerful Apperson Machine Going Fifty Miles an Hour Skids on Sandy Stretch near Dania Park

Skidding to the fence side over a piece of road on the turn at the Mathison place opposite Dania Park shortly before two o’clock this afternoon, a fifty-five horse power Apperson automobile, driven by Estee Morganti of 664 Monterey street, turned turtle after skidding thirty feet, killing Morganti instantly and seriously injuring M.V. Morrison of Maricopa.
The woman companion of Morrison’s was bruised but not badly injured.
The automobile was traveling at a speed of about fifty miles an hour, according to a statement of Morrison at the San Luis sanitarium, where he was removed immediately after the accident.
Morganti’s remains were removed to the undertaking parlors of Coroner Palmer at two forty-five this afternoon. An inquest will probably be held tonight.
GOING 50 MILES AN HOUR
Morrison is a bartender of Maricopa and had engaged Morganti to take the woman and himself to Pizmo where they expected to spend the afternoon and evening.
Morganti was traveling at a rate of at least fifty miles an hour, according to Morrison, when he rounded the turn in the road opposite Dania park. As he came to the turn Morganti clung close to the fence on the right hand side of the road and it is believed that in leaving the dusty stretch of ground at the roadside the car skidded in the sand and turned turtle.
Morganti’s skull was crushed to a pulp. Death was undoubtedly instantaneous.
MORRISON’S STATEMENT
“We were traveling very fast,” said Morrison this afternoon at the Sanitarium while being cared for by Dr. Stover. “Probably the car was making fifty miles at least. Morganti did not say a word when the car went over and I heard nothing but the crash and then I knew I was hurt. The first I knew Morganti was injured was when I looked at him and saw blood spouting as high as this ceiling. Then a man picked me up and brought me to the Sanitarium here.”
John Reid of the Producers Transportation Co. in an automobile was a short distance ahead of Morganti when the high powered Apperson car turned turtle in the roadway. He brought his car to a halt and turned to render assistance. Morganti was dead when Reid reached his side and attention was then turned to Morrison who was suffering from a deep cut in one leg and an ugly gash across the head and a second over the nose.
Morrison’s injuries are not dangerous and his recovery will be but a matter of time, providing complications do not develop.
OF PROMINENT FAMILY
Morganti is a son of one of the best known families in San Luis Obispo county as was between eighteen and nineteen years of age. He recently purchased the high powered Apperson and was acting as agent for the car in this county.
Within twenty minutes after the fatal wreck crowds of automobilists had left for the scene of the mishap and during the hour following reports of the fatality at least fifty automobiles had visited the scene of the wreck.
Morrison and his companions were the only occupants of the car.

The next day story refines the location, near a curve at Vachell Lane, and said the car had rolled twice. The grand jury recommended that a city ordinance require drivers to be over age 16 and discovered that the owner had been warned about a defective rear tire but chose not to repair it. When the tire rolled off the rim it ploughed into the roadway and disintegrated.

In other news on Oct. 15, 1912 page, the New York Giants defeated the Boston Reds Sox in the World Series game that day tying the series 3-3. The eighth game was scheduled in Boston for tomorrow. If you are wondering about the math, the second game finished in an extra-inning tie with no lights at Fenway Park. Fielding errors would doom the Giant’s chances. Even legendary Giant pitcher Christy Mathewson could not win without help in the field.

Bull Moose party candidate Theodore Roosevelt was wounded by an assassin. Headlines from the Oct. 15, 1912 Daily Telegram.

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