The Fort Dodge Messenger: Sept. 8, 1906
Peculiar Tangle in Mayor’s Court
Ed Rank Arrested for Sounding Weird Siren Horn on His Auto.
Fined; But Appeals the Case
Mayor Says Horn Sounds Like Dying Wail And Scares Women and Children – Rank Says it is Necessary to Make People Get Out of Way.
Fort Dodge is noted for its peculiar legal tangles, but what seems to be the strangest yet arose this morning in the mayor’s court when Ed Rank appeared charged with disturbing the peace by sounding a weird siren horn on his auto about the streets.
Mr. Rank bought the horn which has caused all the trouble in Omaha during a trip there a few weeks ago. It was invented about a year ago and has become very popular in the east on account of the effective warning it gives.
It has a strangely weird sound, starting with a wail and ending in a wild shriek, and if given full force, can be heard for blocks. To one who does not know what it is or is of a nervous temperament, it undoubtedly has a terrifying sound.
When Mr. Rank first appeared here with it on his auto, Mr. Bennett, through his police, warned him not to use it. He continued, however, feeling that if care was used not to sound it with full force all would go well. Continual complaints to the mayor caused him to notify Mr. Rank last night to appear before him this morning to stand trial.
At the trial Mr. Rank and H.B. Groves, proprietor of one of the local garages, testified for the defendant, stating that such a horn was a great benefit to the autoist and to pedestrians, because it gave such a good warning of the auto’s approach. They stated that the ordinary horns were paid but little attention and something to carry far was almost necessary.
Mayor Bennett held that the horn was a nuisance. He stated that its sound caused people to run to the windows in dismay, wondering what had happened, or to hide themselves in terror; that it carried a sound which was like the shhriek of a dying man or the wail of a lost soul and that numbers of prominent people of the city (naming them) had earnestly requested that, as chief executive of the ctiy, he should take steps to abate it. In the end the fine named was levied. Maurice O’Connor appeared for Mr. Rank and the case was conducted for the city by City Solicitor M.J. Mitchell. Immediately after the close of the trial an appeal to the district court was taken by the attorney for the defendant. the appeal bond was fixed at $100. It was immediately given.
A peculiar feature of the case is that the city’s right to hold Mr. Rank is based on an ordinance that specifically defines what shall constitute disturbing the peace. Among other things it says that the blowing of horns of an unusual kind shall be disturbing the peace. This ordinance was passed back in 1869, before an automobile was built in the world. What was in view at the time that it was passed seems hard to get at, yet taking the strict construction of the provision, it fits the present case to a nicety.
It was reported that Mr. Rank had sent word to Judge Richard at Webster City asking for an injunction restraining the city from interfering with him in blowing his horn. This is untrue.