Who was the first American to drive across the United States?
Horatio Nelson Jackson (March 25, 1872 – January 14, 1955) was an American physician and visionary. Jackson graduated from the University of Vermont in 1893, became a physician, and practiced in Brattleboro and Burlington, Vermont.
He was married to Bertha Richardson Wells, the daughter of William Wells, a Medal of Honor recipient and one of the richest men in Vermont as a partner in Wells, Richardson & Co., manufacturer of Paine's Celery Compound, a popular patent medicine. H. Nelson Jackson and Bertha Wells were the parents of daughter Bertha (1906-1984), the wife of George B. Kolk.
Besides his medical practice, Jackson was an auto enthusiast who differed with the then-prevailing wisdom that the automobile was a passing fad and a recreational plaything. While in San Francisco's University Club as a guest on May 18, 1903, he agreed to a $50 wager (equivalent to $1,394 in 2018) to prove that a four-wheeled machine could be driven across the country.
He accepted even though at age 31 he did not own a car, had practically no experience driving, and had no maps to follow. Having no mechanical experience, Jackson convinced a young mechanic and chauffeur, Sewall K. Crocker, to serve as his travel companion, mechanic, and backup driver.
Exhibit at the National Museum of American History recreating H. Nelson Jackson's first successful North American transcontinental automobile trip in a 1903 Winton touring car, the Vermont.