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1905 Kalispell Ordinance: Automobiles

Real Estate Broker/Owner with eXp Commercial, Referral Divison RRE-BRO-LIC-75443

I recently found an online directory of Kalispell City ordinances and thought it’d be intriguing to see what some of the ordinances of the past were. If I can find enough interesting material, I hope to share one from each year up until now. This week's post will cover a Kalispell ordinance I found from 1905.

In 1900, there was a population of 9,375 in Flathead County. Currently, in 2022, the census indicates 24% of the people in Flathead County live in Kalispell. Assuming the same was true in 1905, we could estimate that perhaps 2,250 people lived in Kalispell. The energy.gov website indicates that in 1905 only .94 per 1,000 people owned a car. With that calculation, there were probably very few people who owned or drove cars at that time. But evidently there were enough for the Kalispell City Council to write an ordinance regarding automobiles.

The July 5th, 1905 ordinance is not numbered but was somewhere around #170. The three page directive can be summarized as follows (italics are mine):


  1. No person should drive, run or propel an automobile at more than 8 miles per hour (eight!)
  2. When approaching any intersection within Kalispell, they must reduce speed to less than 8 mph.
  3. No person should race any automobile (there must have been a reason that was added!)
  4. It is unlawful to drive an auto without a bell or horn and lamp. Also, a driver must sound their bell at least 30 feet before reaching an intersection.
  5. When approaching "any vehicle drawn by a horse, mule, horses or mules" an automobile driver must make sure the horses or mules are not frightened, and if they are, they must stop until the animals are okay.
  6. All drivers must "propel" their vehicles on the right of the center of the street.
  7. Anyone violating these provisions would be punished by a fine not exceeding $100 or by not more than 60 days jail, or both.


A fine of $100 could have been a quarter or fifth of someone's annual salary, so the city council meant business with the last provision! Also a car cost around $500 in 1905 which would have taken an entire year's salary to purchase. The fine for driving over 8mph was a fifth of the cost of a car!

There are now places in Montana with speed limits that go up to 80, and here in Kalispell there are some roads in the area that are 65-70mph. And of course, Kalispell in the current day is full of stop signs, traffic lights, and all sorts of ways to keep people in the correct lane. So we certainly have changed since 1905!

And what about the fine for speeding? In 1905 it was up to $100. Now it ranges from $20 to $200 depending on how fast over the speed limit you are going. If only 1-10 miles over, it's $20 and my guess is in 1905, that's probably the most someone would speed by. So the fees for being caught have basically decreased. Imagine if you still had to pay 1/5 the price of a car as a speeding ticket? Wonder if that would make people would stay under the speed limit!

And there you have it, another blast from the past of Kalispell Montana. I wonder what I'll find the next time I peek into the Kalispell Ordinances?

As always if you have any real estate related questions, feel free to give me a call on 406-270-3667 or email me at kat@thehousekat.com.

Originally posted at thehousekat.com

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Kalispell, Bigfork, Lakeside and Somers areas. 

Are you getting ready to sell or purchase land or a home in Kalispell  or the surrounding vicinity? Let’s talk!

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Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573
Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker

The addition of a motor to fire fighting equipment was critical. Early wooden buildings and gas lanterns were hard on original town layouts and often replaced with brick after fires. Great post that makes you think about 1% of the population could afford a car in most towns, that early models broke down. Drivers had to be sensitive to horses and mules and I bet early dirt roads had lots of potholes 

Kat Palmiotti .

Jan 09, 2023 04:30 AM
Kat Palmiotti

Oh yes, Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573 - I bet those roads were very tricky to navigate!

Jan 10, 2023 06:45 AM
Leanne Smith
Dirt Road Real Estate - Golden Valley, AZ
The Grit and Gratitude Agent

Traveling back and reviewing past ordinances is indeed fascinating. Many of these ordinances as well as laws/statues are still in force though not enforced.

Jan 09, 2023 04:56 AM
Kat Palmiotti

Leanne Smith - interesting thought! I wonder if there is an ordinance repealing this 8mph ordinance!

Jan 10, 2023 06:45 AM
Leanne Smith

I know many outdated laws along with rules and regulations are still in existence.

Jan 10, 2023 07:06 AM
Ed Silva, 203-206-0754
Mapleridge Realty, CT 203-206-0754 - Waterbury, CT
Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally

Well, not to be argumentative, but can you show me how you determined I was going faster than 8 mph?

Jan 09, 2023 05:24 AM
Anna "Banana" Kruchten

LOL good one Ed Silva .  I wonder how they did that!

Jan 09, 2023 09:38 AM
Kat Palmiotti

Good point Ed Silva - how did they know?

Jan 10, 2023 06:46 AM
Dick Betts
REALTOR® The Villages, Florida

Today I will crossover the 500,000 mark and wanted you to be a part of it!  Thanks for your support!

Jan 09, 2023 06:19 AM
Kat Palmiotti

You made it Dick Betts - congratulations on the 500K!

Jan 10, 2023 06:46 AM
Dick Betts

Thanks Kat Palmiotti 

Jan 10, 2023 10:27 AM
Jeffrey DiMuria 321.223.6253 Waves Realty
Waves Realty - Melbourne, FL
Florida Space Coast Homes

Wait, so you could spend 60 days in jail for going 9MPH? LOL  Do I have that right?

Jan 09, 2023 06:26 AM
Kat Palmiotti

Jeffrey DiMuria 321.223.6253 Waves Realty - yes, that is correct! Or you could pay 1/5 of your annual income! And/or!

Jan 10, 2023 06:46 AM
Patricia Feager, ABR,CRS,GRI,MRP
Selling Homes Changing Lives

Kat Palmiotti - WOW! To be FEATURED is such an honor! 

Jan 09, 2023 07:03 AM
Kat Palmiotti

Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP - Thank you to the featurer!

Jan 10, 2023 06:47 AM
Pete Cullen ~ Broker Associate, GRI,CRS
Bailey Properties, Inc. - Santa Cruz, CA
Serving The Entire Monterey Bay Area

Fun post!  Thank you!

Jan 09, 2023 08:37 AM
Kat Palmiotti

Thank you for reading Pete Cullen ~ Broker Associate, GRI,CRS !

Jan 10, 2023 06:47 AM
Anna "Banana" Kruchten
HomeSmart Real Estate - Phoenix, AZ

This is so much fun reading your ordinance posts from the past Kat! Keep em coming!  And holy smokes - those were big fines back in 1905!  Wow!  If we had those fines now perhaps people would slow down and stop driving so crazy in Phoenix.

Jan 09, 2023 09:37 AM
Kat Palmiotti

Exactly my thought Anna Banana Kruchten Phoenix Broker - if we  had to pay 1/5 of our annual salary as a speeding ticket fine, I'd drive the speed limit...

Jan 10, 2023 06:48 AM
Kat Palmiotti
eXp Commercial, Referral Divison - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

Thank you for featuring this!! (To whomever the feature fairy was!)

Jan 10, 2023 06:48 AM
Nick Vandekar, 610-203-4543
Realty ONE Group Advocates 484-237-2055 - Downingtown, PA
Selling the Main Line & Chester County

What a fun post and interesting as well how things have changed.

Jan 10, 2023 10:51 AM
Kat Palmiotti

Nick Vandekar, 610-203-4543 - thank you! Thinks sure have changed!

Jan 11, 2023 03:33 AM
Bruce Walter
Keller Williams Realty Lafayette/West Lafayette, Indiana - West Lafayette, IN

Kat, this was an enjoyable post to read and you have added great value to it with your personal research!  Since you will be doing additional posts on Kalispell's ordinances,  and perhaps talking more about the cost of things back at the turn of the century you would enjoy going to westegg.com to compare the cost of things way back then and compare it in todays dollars.  

Jan 10, 2023 08:26 PM
Kat Palmiotti

Thank you so much for the URL Bruce Walter - I'm adding it to my bookmarks now!

Jan 11, 2023 03:33 AM
Margaret Rome Baltimore 410-530-2400
HomeRome Realty 410-530-2400 - Pikesville, MD
Sell Your Home With Margaret Rome

What a good read! Thanks for sharing, and I can't wait to see what is next in the ordinances. Don't scare the horses! Times have changed a bit.

Jan 10, 2023 09:20 PM
Kat Palmiotti

Times have definitely changed Margaret Rome Baltimore 410-530-2400  - we'll see how far they've come from 1906 next!

Jan 11, 2023 03:35 AM
faye schubert
Retired - Branson, MO
Living the Branson Lake Life

I guess a lawn mower engine would move you at 8 mph back in the day.

So interesting to look back where we were and where we are now.

Jan 11, 2023 05:06 AM
Kat Palmiotti

It’s very interesting to see where we are vs. were faye schubert 

Jan 11, 2023 06:45 PM
Sam Shueh
(408) 425-1601 - San Jose, CA
mba, cdpe, reopro, pe

The rural town I lived in had 1 cop. He spent days taking a nap as homes were not locked. To generate some revenue they  put a stop sign on main street and a speed limit sign to catch speeders. The road is actually part of El Camino Real originated in Mexico City to San Francisco.  Plenty of violations.

Jan 11, 2023 08:16 AM
Kat Palmiotti

What was the speed limit

Jan 11, 2023 06:46 PM
Sam Shueh
(408) 425-1601 - San Jose, CA
mba, cdpe, reopro, pe

Even when we moved in the 1980s often we did not lock our doors.  Conditions have changed when homeless are encroaching into California.

Jan 11, 2023 08:18 AM
Kat Palmiotti

Sam Shueh - it's too bad we can't leave our doors open anymore!

Jan 13, 2023 04:34 AM
Edward Gilmartin
CRE - Boston, MA

In NYC auto drivers had to hire a flag person to walk in front of their car warning folks and horse drawn carriages that they were coming around same time period

Jan 12, 2023 01:26 PM
Kat Palmiotti

How cool Edward Gilmartin !

Jan 13, 2023 04:34 AM
Paul S. Henderson, REALTOR®, CRS
Fathom Realty Washington LLC - Tacoma, WA
South Puget Sound Washington Agent/Broker!

I think most of that ordinance would still apply in Mason County Washington, where I reside Kat…

Jan 13, 2023 07:20 PM
Kat Palmiotti

Haha, Paul S. Henderson, REALTOR®, CRS  - let's hope you're going more than 8mph!!

Jan 14, 2023 03:45 AM
Roy Kelley
Retired - Gaithersburg, MD

Thank you very much, Kat, for sharing these interesting regulations.

Have an outstanding weekend.

Jan 14, 2023 08:48 AM
Kat Palmiotti

Thank you Roy!

Jan 14, 2023 01:18 PM
Paul S. Henderson, REALTOR®, CRS
Fathom Realty Washington LLC - Tacoma, WA
South Puget Sound Washington Agent/Broker!

I was just enjoying this blog post again what I thought that 1905 was a different world, then what we face today, sad but true my friend...

Jan 17, 2023 10:16 AM
Kat Palmiotti

Yes, Paul S. Henderson, REALTOR®, CRS - for many reasons, 1905 was a LOT different than now!

Jan 17, 2023 11:36 AM
Paul S. Henderson, REALTOR®, CRS
Fathom Realty Washington LLC - Tacoma, WA
South Puget Sound Washington Agent/Broker!

Historic ordinances show that change does happen if we like it or not 🙂

Jan 18, 2023 05:21 PM
Kat Palmiotti

Exactly true Paul S. Henderson, REALTOR®, CRS 

Jan 18, 2023 06:26 PM