Editor’s Note: We recently saw this article, written in 2008 at the time when the auto bailouts were imminent, and found it inspiring and relevant today.
Washington, DC Monday, December 9, 1907 –
Upon their arrival in the nation’s capitol this blustery December afternoon, the presidents of the three major manufacturers of buggy whips held a joint press conference.
Bailey Farnham, president of Ace Carriage & Buggy Whip Corporation, spoke first, summing up the state of the industry; “We realize that times are changing, and perhaps we’ve been caught a bit off guard, but our designers and engineers are working steadily at new designs and manufacturing techniques to make sure that our products will continue to serve the needs of the public, and our loyal customers.”
“Some have said that the time of the buggy whip has come and gone,” commented William “Rhett” Braxton, director of Braxton Industries’ Whips, Quirts and Crops Division. “We must remind them not to be fooled by fads, or short-term trends,” Braxton added. “The horseless carriage is noisy, nasally repugnant, and unreliable. It may seem like these self-powered hansoms will someday rule the road, but the required fueling infrastructure alone will make wholesale uptake impractical—if not impossible—in the long run. Every family is still going to need one horse and buggy for backup transportation, and yet another animal for rescue missions when the horseless claptrap breaks down.”
“All three of you gentlemen traveled to Washington by virtue of locomotive energy, by rail from your respective states of Indiana, Kentucky, and Minnesota. In velvet upholstered private corporation cars, at that. Do you believe this sends the right message to the public, that not one of the three of you, arriving to make your case before congress, even needed a buggy whip to get here?”
Nervously tapping their cigars, ashes falling to the cement in the chill air outside the capitol, the three whip czars looked at each other.
Arne Jurgens, president and founder of Oshketonka Tack and Tackle Manufacturing Company LTD, tossed his cheroot underboot and stepped forward– “Expedience,” he said, then paused and stared hard at Williams, “…expedience required utmost haste,” he continued drily. “Our industry is at a crossroads. Retooling and redesign will take time, and sacrifice. We’ve put aside our usual competitivity and come to Washington united for the sake of our companies and our workers. You can’t just motorize everything. Our industry just needs a little federal assistance, three small suspension loans to keep us liquid, and we can turn the corner when better times–and wiser heads–prevail again.”
Farnham shouldered his way free of his two fellow manufacturers and waved the buzzing crowd to silence; “A recent issue of Buggywhip Executive—the authoritative journal of our industry—predicts that the number of horseless carriages will never exceed horse-drawn carriages, based on a scientific poll,” he shouted, with an emphatic finger thrust over his head.
A grizzled and gray reporter holding a leather-bound pocket-sized notebook stepped forward and held his notebook up. When the crowd quieted he put the notebook in a jacket pocket, and stood savoring the silence for a moment before sticking a thumb in a wide lapel and speaking; “Jack Collings, editor of Buggywhip Executive magazine. That scientific poll was populated by yourselves, gentlemen—executives in the carriage trade.”
Another voice in the crowd took over… “What makes you think a shorter handle, a braided core–or a dainty pink whip–will turn around your fortunes? You’ve lost touch with your public, your customers. You need a complete turnaround, not a retooling.”
Jack Collings strode into the space they vacated. “We’re offering advertisers a new publication, by the way, first issue January 7.” he called, waving to the crowd… “Horseless Journal.”
Posted by Town Andrews at 9:47 PM, Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Used with permission