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Terry Stafford

Photo of Alonzo & Annie Thomas sitting in "Old Bill," a Stafford automobile built by Terry StaffordAutomobile builder, General manager of the Smith Automobile Company, Topeka. ?-1925

At the turn of the century, Terry Stafford, who owned a bicycle shop on East Fifth Street in Topeka, was intrigued by accounts in the magazine, Scientific American, of the new horseless carriage that was surely going to relegate Old Dobbin to pasture. Although Terry had never seen an automobile, he decided that he would like to build one, following descriptions in the magazine. The result was a two-cylinder gas buggy with wood buggy wheels and a tiller for steering.

Terry made news when he took off on what today would be classed as an endurance run. His goal was Silver Lake. And here it should be explained that the road was anything but good; there were stretches of deep sand. But Terry and "Old Bill," as he dubbed his vehicle, made it to Silver Lake in four hours flat. It was the first automobile to make the trip.

Smith Auto Factory

Owners of a surgical truss firm, Dr. Clement and Anton Smith, impressed by Terry's hand-built auto, signed him up as general manager of the soon to be built, Smith Automobile Company, which eventually built a plant at Tenth and Jefferson in Topeka. By 1907 the Great Smith auto was in production, and things looked rosy for the firm. But up in Dearborn, Michigan, another mechanic, named Henry Ford, was developing his horseless carriages. By 1909 Ford announced his Model T at a price around $500, and sent scores of automakers including the Smith Company, into receivership.

Entry: Stafford, Terry

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: June 2003

Date Modified: June 2011

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.