Canada's History

GLIDE AND RIDE

- Cars · Wetaskiwin · Exide Batteries

Louis the par­rot is likely the first bird to ever “own” an elec­tric car. Vic­to­ria Jane Wil­son asked her fa­ther, Keith Wil­son, to buy her the ve­hi­cle, a lux­ury Hupp-Yeats elec­tric au­to­mo­bile, so that she could take her pet par­rot for short drives.

The Hupp-Yeats was pro­duced in Detroit from 1911 to 1916 and em­ployed a then new tech­nol­ogy, the Ex­ide Hy­cap bat­tery, for propul­sion. The ve­hi­cle fea­tured a glass roof, lamps on each side of the up­per hood, and a holder for flow­ers be­hind the driver’s seat.

Un­for­tu­nately, Louis re­port­edly didn’t like the car’s noise, and the auto was put into stor­age af­ter just a few out­ings. Fol­low­ing Vic­to­ria Jane Wil­son’s death, the ve­hi­cle was pur­chased in 1959 by Stan Reynolds, an Al­berta ve­hi­cle col­lec­tor.

The Hupp-Yeats is to­day dis­played in the Reynolds-Al­berta Mu­seum in We­taski­win, Al­berta. The mu­seum traces the mech­a­niza­tion of trans­porta­tion, avi­a­tion, agri­cul­ture, and in­dus­try from the 1890s to the present. Mu­seum cu­ra­tor Justin Cuffe said the car was found in a garage be­hind a sealed wall in Wil­son’s man­sion. He noted that Reynolds had to take great care “to del­i­cately re­move it with­out both­er­ing Miss Wil­son’s pet par­rot Louis, who had his aviary set up in front of the garage.” When the car was fi­nally ex­tracted, it had less than 160 kilo­me­tres on the odome­ter.

— Su­san Gold­en­berg

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