by Paula Bosse
Flipping through the pages of a Jan. 1912 issue of Popular Mechanics — as one does — I came across a photo of a truckload of joyriding mules which was accompanied by this explanatory text:
Ah, a publicity stunt. A Chicago newspaper offered a bit more background, and gave us the delightful phrase “joy-riding equine debutantes.”
Chicago Inter Ocean, Oct. 23, 1911
Another report added that the mules were “adorned with a collection of discarded women’s hats and bonnets elaborated with all the old ribbons, feathers and similar gee-gaws […] securely tied on with pink and red mosquito netting…. The procession was headed by Dallas’ most prominent business men in a brand new White 1912 ’30′” (from Automobile Topics magazine, Oct. 28, 1911).
Despite the fact that this, let’s face it, pretty unusual “parade” happened on Main St., with apparent participation by “prominent businessmen,” I can find no mention of it in local newspapers. Maybe because it was a publicity stunt and there was no advertising fee collected by the papers. The story ran in a handful of newspapers (Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, DC), and the Washington Post ran the photo below under the headline “New Way to Advertise Motor Trucks.”
The White Motor Company (makers of the mule-laden truck) must have been quite taken with the unnamed entrepreneur’s banner, because they used the exact same wording on a banner draped on one of their trucks which was a featured attraction on Transportation Day at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco.
Let’s hope the original Dallas guy got a little something out of all this.
On further investigation into The Case of the Joyriding Mules, it appears that this was the brainchild of the General Manager of the White Motor Co., A. E. Creeger (or perhaps that of one of his gung-ho underlings). In a 1912 article in The Dallas Morning News, Creeger talks about the relatively soft truck market in Texas (!), and it’s easy to see why he was doing all he could to draw attention to his company’s line of trucks — even if it meant loading them up with “emancipated” livestock; his interview in the DMN can be found here.
And here’s one of his ads from almost exactly one year after the mule stunt:
Oct. 13, 1912
Sources & Notes
Top photo appeared in the January, 1912 issue of Popular Mechanics.
The “parade” (which took place sometime in the middle of October, 1911) is seen heading west on Main Street, just about to pass Ervay. The inescapable Wilson Building dominates the photo, with the tall, white Praetorian Building in the background. The restaurant at the right — at 1705 Main — was the California Restaurant, a Dallas eatery specializing in Chinese food since at least the 1890s.
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