Crooked But Not Necessarily Illegal

Tacoma Police Department’s first motorized patrol wagon, bought at a premium price in 1908, was puzzling if not outright criminal. The contraption was underpowered by a 40 horsepower engine, hand cranked and capable of speeds up to 50 miles per hour according to its makers, the Stoddard-Dayton company and the Fawcett Wagon Company. A problem identified early in its ownership was that it was not capable of climbing Tacoma’s downtown hills without a running start of a block or so. Another problem shrewdly recognized by drivers like Bye Thompson(shown here) was the inclination of the balloon tires to blow out on the cobblestone streets or lock firmly into the streetcar tracks throwing occupants either against the lockable back cell wall or over the windshield. In fact it was difficult to find any practical use at all for the vehicle but it did have at least one redeeming value as far as the police department was concerned. The fine maroon body with gold stripping and brass hardware was locally made by the company owned by Angelo Fawcett. Angelo happened to be Mayor of Tacoma and he was very appreciative of the police department’s modernization during budget time(both his and the City’s). Its probably a coincidence that in 1911 mayor Fawcett was recalled, ending the second of four terms as mayor. Critics accused him of participating in graft but he got reelected just three years later. Tacomans were quick to forget in those days and by 1914 nobody could find the old police wagon. Police records of the investigation seem to have been lost.

“Tacoma has made a few mistakes, and reelected most of them”

Murray Morgan



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