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This Month in History – Getting a Car Fixed, September 3, 1929

On September 3, 1929, Benjamin T. Hatch got a bill from W. D. MacMillan Jr.’s Buick dealership for $4.10.  He’d had some minor repair work performed on his 1927 Buick.  More than eighty years later, Virginia Hatch Hickman donated the receipt for this work and a number of other items, including a 1926 contract to purchase a Buick, to the Museum. Many such receipts were surely written and then lost to history.  Papers that survive help us see how cars became a more common sight in American cities and towns during the first three decades of the 20th century.

Benjamin Hatch was born in Virginia, served in World War I, and moved to Wilmington in the 1920s. He met Verna Crute, and the couple married in 1923. Mr. and Mrs. Hatch both worked for the Atlantic Coastline Railroad in the 1920s. The family’s finances seemed to have improved during their first few years of marriage. The couple moved from a shared home in Carolina Place in the early 1920s to a new house in the then-new suburb of Forest Hills in late 1920s. And, at the same time, they got a new car. Mr. Hatch purchased his Buick from the MacMillan Buick Dealer in 1926, a few months after he and his wife bought the lot in Forest Hills.

It would be hard to imagine a family like the Hatches owning an automobile even fifteen years before they purchased their Buick Sedan. When the first car came to Wilmington in 1900, it was front page news. The Wilmington Morning Star declared that the Locomobile’s arrival “…attracted the attention of hundreds of people during the day.” And that’s no surprise, since there were only a total of 8,000 cars in the United States at the time. Automobiles were still a novelty six years later – there were 14 in Wilmington in May 1906. There were an estimated 572 cars in the city in 1916. And by 1924, there were 4,652 in the city and more than 300,000 in the state of North Carolina. Nationally, by the time that Mr. Hatch bought his Buick in 1926, there were more than 19 million cars on the nation’s roads (up from 8 million in 1920).

To see more artifacts relating to the Hatch family, as well as some photographs and artifacts relating to cars, click here.


Previous Columns

August: “Two Hundred Years of Light by the Light”: August 5, 1989
Tommies Parading in Wilmington: July 17, 1943
Williston is Closed: June 26, 1968
May: May 13, 1919: Traveling Home from War
April: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated: April 4, 1968
March: Sending Victory Mail Home
February:  Human Relations Month
January 2018:
Galloway’s Sick Note
A Ship is Launched
Election Day and a Parade
Developing the story
A soldier/artist sketches a famous dancer
Urban Renewal Takes Off
Launching Concrete River Vessel No. 5
Wilmington Meets Los Angeles
Bellamy Sails to France
World TB Day
February: David Walker is Honored with a Marker
January 2017:
Two Brothers Honored on One Memorial Stone
Holiday Gifts
A nurse comes home from war
Wartime football takes the bases by storm
Circus Day
Motorboat Racing
Celebrating Independence Day at the Beach
Wilmington Turns 200, June 21, 1939
Laura Grace Cox graduates from Tileston
Saint Marks Turns 100, April 1969
March: Troops Return Home, March 29, 1919
February: Black History Month turns 40
January 2016: Fort Johnston and Fort Caswell are seized, January 8, 1861

Buick receipt for repair, September 3, 1929
CFM 2011.020.0022
Gift of Virginian Hatch Hickman

Stutz Automobile, about 1920
CFM 1988.039.0447
Photo by George Nevens, Gift of Gerald N. Dunn
814 Market Street • Wilmington, NC 28401 • Phone 910-798-4370 • Fax 910-798-4382