Speed traps and artificially low speed limits are as old as the automobile itself. At the turn of the 20th century, automobiles variously powered by electricity, steam and gasoline were available only to the wealthy. As The New York Times explained in 1902, these high-flying ‘automobilists’ did themselves no favors:
“When the automobile made its appearance in this country a few years ago it was received with a cordiality which was nothing short of remarkable. Whether on the city streets or the country roads, pedestrians and vehicles stopped to see it pass, and the general sentiment was obviously that of admiration…. Now the admiration and interest of at least a very large part of the public had been succeeded by open hostility.”
A good deal of the resentment was based on envy. Millionaires flaunted their status by having chauffeurs drive them, in style, in imported vehicles whose prices ranged from $4000 to over $20,000 (equivalent of up to $600,000 today).