Boston Police’s Early Steam-Powered Cars

Many of Boston Police’s cars from more than a century ago ran on steam.
Many of Boston Police’s cars from more than a century ago ran on steam.

Interesting post from Gizmodo on Boston’s police cars from early last century, most of which ran on steam.

In 1903, BPD was equipped with a Stanley Steamer vehicle, which was an automotive heavyweight in its time. Unfortunately, several cars of last century didn’t have a very long shelf life. Gizmodo points out that a cop car purchased in 1905 was decommissioned after only 7,000 miles.

Perhaps most interestingly, BPD once hired civilian chauffeurs who watched the vehicles while the offers pursued subjects on foot. Check out the Gizmodo post for a 1903 rendering of an everyday Joe assisting an officer by taking the wheel.


These vehicles got a few jabs from the media, including The Boston Daily Globe:

Now that the police automobile chasers are to have two new, powerful steam automobiles, obviously the only safety for automobilists who want to run faster than the law allows will be to get on the force.

Unfortunately, the article debunks a commonly held belief that Boston police had the first police car. In reality, that honor goes to Akron, Ohio. However Akron’s police car was electric, while Boston’s was steam-powered.

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