The groundhog has seen his shadow and you’re leaving the snow tires on while looking over your shoulder at the weather report and wondering if another big storm was on its way.
Snow is certainly a challenge to driving these days. But imagine what it was in the 1920s when automobiles were still relatively new additions to the American road. Among those who purchased automobiles hoping to make their work life easier were a number of Rural Free Delivery carriers. Unlike their city cousins, RFD carriers were, and are, responsible for purchasing their own transportation. And while a new car could make those daily rounds go a lot faster and easier in good weather, bad weather forced many carriers to return to their horses and buggies.
Virgil White of New Holstein, Wisconsin, rode to the rescue. He began tinkering with making automobiles snow-friendly in 1906. By 1922 he was designing and marketing a Model-T snowmobile kit known as the “mailman’s special” or “snowbird.” Rural carriers snapped up the kits, transforming their tire-bound vehicles into triumphant snowmobiles. White opened his Snowmobile Company in West Ossipee, New Hampshire and sold his kits for $250 to $400.
This Model-T “snowbird” belonged to RFD carrier Harold Crabtree of Central Square, New York. It is on display in the museum’s “Reaching Rural America” exhibit.