Maggie L. Walker's vehicles

For 31 years, from 1903 to 1934, Maggie L. Walker traveled in some of the most luxurious vehicles available at the time. Walker understood the importance creating an image that invoked a positive mental picture of herself as successful, solid, and prosperous business woman and banker. The image was important for three reasons. The first was professional. As the leader and symbol of the Independent Order of St. Luke, the positive image that Walker cultivated would be attached to the Independent Order of St. Luke, St. Luke Penny Savings Bank and their future business operations. The second was cultural, to provide a positive role model for all African-Americans and specifically for African-American women. The last may have been a form of passive aggressive resistance against Jim Crow segregation laws for public transportation. As an African-American, Walker certainly would not be given first class passenger status on public transportation. To retaliate against this discrimination, she may have created her own first class travel status by using her luxury cars.

In 1908 Walker begins to rely on conveyances for a more pragmatic reason, she falls down the front stairs of her home at 110 1/2 Leigh Street and breaks her kneecap. The injury causes her to walk with a limp increasing her dependence on vehicles. In 1928, her mobility is struck another blow when she is paralyzed from complications of diabetes and confined to a wheelchair. The wheelchair presented an even greater challenge to her ability to travel. In 1928, Maggie L. Walker would demonstrate her creativity by adapting her vehicle to accommodate her wheelchair.

When fashion trends changed in automobiles, she changed. This is clearly reflected in 1920 when she bought the first of her three 'Ps" of luxury cars, a Peerless. This trend would continue to her death in 1934. By that time she had owned the two other "P" luxury cars; Packard and Pierce Arrow. These cars were status symbols, owned by such luminaries as William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson, former presidents of the United States;, King Albert of Belgium; King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia; Charlie Chaplin, movie comic; Mrs. Andrew Carnegie, New York City; J .D. Rockefeller, philanthropist, New York City; Mrs. Sarah Winchester, heiress to the Winchester rifle fortune, San Jose, Calif.; Orville Wright, aviation pioneer, and Babe Ruth - baseball legend.

 

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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