…but until now, I couldn’t tell you what it was. I am referring to Dr. Robert Black Hopkins, Milton’s healer, bandmaster, and civic leader for many decades from about 1890 to his retirement around 1930. Long-time readers of this blog might remember the story of his whirlwind courtship, at the age of 42, of 19-year-old Marie Nielson of Denmark, whom he married two weeks after they met in 1908. Readers may also remember a photograph that accompanied the post, showing Dr. and Mrs. Nielson driving in one of the first automobiles to have appeared in Milton. While we may never know how the good doctor swept Miss Nielson off her feet, we now know what type of vehicle they were riding in.
To find out, I tasked our Automotive Research Division (new Milton Historical Society volunteer Tom Rosinski) with identifying Dr. Hopkins’s vehicle. Sure enough, he made a positive ID in one afternoon. The car is a 1907 Maxwell Model RL “gentleman’s roadster.” The Maxwell-Briscoe Company, founded in 1903, was absorbed by Chrysler around 1923.
The Model RL sold for $895 in 1907, about $28.4K in today’s dollars. Below is a photograph of the same model, restored and offered for sale in 2014 for $29K. If this was the color of the Dr. Hopkins car, I would venture to say it caused a sensation in town. Actually, any automobile that appeared on the unpaved, rutted roads on Milton in those years would have caused a sensation. Dr. Hopkins and Miss Nielson were married in 1908, and the car was a 1907 model, so he may have bought it before the marriage. Did it help sway Miss Nielson’s heart?
I invite antique and classic car buffs, of which there is no shortage in Delaware, to comment on the identification. There are some differences between the cars in the two pictures that even I can see, although the general shape of the body, fenders, headlamps, and bench seat look the same.
Thanks again to Tom Rosinski!