Don’t Drink and Drive in 1923

The driver of this car did and ended up in the Tidal Basin. The car made it out but two men did not. A third, the driver did.

"Auto wreck. December 31, 1923." Continuing this week's theme of vehicular mishaps on (and off) the roads of Washington, D.C. On New Year's Eve, this car was in the drink. See the comments for details about this fatal accident in the Tidal Basin. National Photo Company Collection glass negative.

“Auto wreck. December 31, 1923.” Continuing this week’s theme of vehicular mishaps on (and off) the roads of Washington, D.C. On New Year’s Eve, this car was in the drink. See the comments for details about this fatal accident in the Tidal Basin. National Photo Company Collection glass negative.

Below is a story from the Washington Post about the wreck.

Essige Hammen, 50 years old, 477 C street southwest, was identified last night at the morgue as the second victim of the accident which carried an automobile, containing three men, into the Tidal basin early yesterday. Funeral services for John J. Craven, 55 years old, 211 Tenth street southwest, Hammen’s companion in the automobile, will be held tomorrow in the Church of the Holy Comforter, and at the residence of his sister, Mrs. Mary A. Bellenger, 1216 D street northeast. Interment will be in Mount Olivet cemetary.

Hammen’s identification was established by Samuel Scklattereggia, 481 C street southwest, brother of a huckster who employed him.

The condition of Robert McLennan, 43 years old, driver of the automobile, who was rescued from the water by park policemen, was reported much improved at Emergency hospital. He is still under police guard pending an inquest which Dr. Herbert E. Martyn, deputy coroner, said would be help Friday.

The automobile is still in 20 feet of water near the southern floodgate of the Tidal basin. Harbor police have no equipment with which to raise it. Whether the engineer commissioner’s office would take means to raise the car police could not say.

The accident, it is believed, will hasten a reconstruction of the floodgate bridge, which according to Lieut. Col. C.O. Sherrill, in charge of public buildings and grounds, has been a “constant source of danger to motorists. The span is only 25 feet wide and Col. Sherrill has asked for $20,000 appropriation to widen it 10 feet.

McLennan said he was turning onto the bridge and, in order to avoid striking a car coming toward him, swerved off sharply. This, he believed, caused a break in his steering gear and he could not control the car. The machine crashed through the iron railing, hurtled 18 feet across a sloping embankment and landed 20 feet out into the basin. McLennan told the police he was driving slowly.

McLennan fell clear, but the others were trapped. A passing motorist notified a park policeman several blocks away. Sergt. Miskell, motorcycle man, despatched three other men who reached the sea wall just as McLennan was about to go under a second time. The officers, Sergt. Rease and Private Jenkins and Rainey, formed a human ladder and pulled him ashore.


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