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Early Automobiles of Manatee County

Research conducted and article written by Allyson O'Leary. All sources are available upon request.

Did you know some Manatee County citizens owned cars as early as 1905? While exploring records on Florida Memory, we came across some documents that reflect vehicle ownership in the state of Florida in the 1900s.

Vehicle registration records from 1905 to 1917 note the name of the vehicle’s owner, registration date, and registration number; in addition to the vehicle’s make, model, and horsepower.

K.W. Wiggins registered his 30 horsepower Touring model car on June 15, 1911. His car was made by REO Motor Car Co. This is the same Wiggins who built the Wiggins General Store at Manatee Village Historical Park. Wiggins is pictured in the backseat of the automobile on the right, although it is unclear from the records whether this is the same vehicle he registered in 1911 or if he is simply a passenger in someone else’s vehicle.

Another recognizable name from the vehicle registration records is Reasoner. Pliny Reasoner, pictured on the left, was described in a local historical diary as “...the wide known and beloved by all young nurseryman…” (Diary of E.E. and E.B. Johnson, 1884-1896).

When Pliny arrived in Manatee he gained a reputation as a proficient nurseryman and established Royal Palm Nurseries in 1881. His brother, Egbert Reasoner, would later join him in Florida and in the nursery business. Egbert took over the business when Pliny died during a Yellow Fever outbreak in Manatee. One piece of historical evidence that reflects Egbert’s time in Florida in the years following his brother’s death is the vehicle registration records from the state archives.

Egbert registered two vehicles:

1. A gasoline powered vehicle from Cadillac Motor Co. (10hp) on July 23, 1906

2. A Touring Car from Cadillac Motor Co. (30hp) on April 2, 1909

The photograph on the left was found in an online archive and is listed in it’s record as “Reasoner’s first car.” The vehicle pictured is a Hudson automobile. It is worth noting that the vehicle registration records do not reflect the pictured car and the description for the photograph does not explicitly state which Reasoner family member the vehicle belonged to.

In the future, if documents are discovered that help fill in gaps in the current records, we will update this article. Until then, please feel free to check out the vehicle registration records on Florida Memory below, or by clicking HERE. Below, can also find newspaper advertisements that people from the time period would have been reading. These advertisements represent those typical of the time period and are from some of the manufacturers who sold vehicles to Florida residents.


K.W. Wiggins (white shirt, backseat) and others (1910-1920); courtesy of Manatee County Public Library Historical Digital Collections

Pliny Reasoner (1881-1888); courtesy of Manatee County Public Library Historical Digital Collections

Vehicle associated with the Reasoner family (1910-1912); courtesy of Manatee County Public Library Historical Digital Collections

Egbert Norman Reasoner and his wife, Sarah Burrows Anderson; courtesy of Manatee County Public Library Historical Digital Collections

Images of Registrations Records courtesy of Florida Memory

Newspaper Advertisements courtesy of Chronicling America, Library of Congress


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