September 13, 1899 – The first automobile related death in the US

Henry Bliss became the first person to be killed by an automobile in the United States on this day in 1899 and is believed to be the first person killed by a motor vehicle crash in the Western Hemisphere. It was September 13, 1899 that Bliss was exiting a streetcar at West 74th Street and Central Park West he was struck by an electric taxicab driven by Arthur Smith. The vehicle crushed Bliss’ head and chest, causing him to die from his injuries the next morning. Smith, who was ferrying Dr. David Edson, the son of former NYC mayor Franklin Edson was charged with manslaughter but he was acquitted as he was found to have no malice and was not negligent. Today a plaque stands at the intersection where the accident occurred. It was dedicated on the 100th anniversary of the event. It reads, “Here at West 74th Street and Central Park West, Henry H. Bliss dismounted from a streetcar and was struck and knocked unconscious by an automobile on the evening of September 13, 1899. When Mr. Bliss, a New York real estate man, died the next morning from his injuries, he became the first recorded motor vehicle fatality in the Western Hemisphere. This sign was erected to remember Mr. Bliss on the centennial of his untimely death and to promote safety on our streets and highways.” The dedication ceremony was attended by the great-granddaughter of Bliss, who placed flowers where the accident occurred.

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