Henry H. Bliss

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Henry Bliss, 1873

Henry Hale Bliss (June 13, 1830 – September 14, 1899) was the first person killed by a motor vehicle accident in the United States, and the first known in the Americas.[1]

Automobile accident[edit]

On September 13, 1899 he was disembarking from a streetcar at West 74th Street and Central Park West in New York City, when an electric-powered taxicab (Automobile No. 43) struck him and crushed his head and chest. He died from his injuries the next morning.

Arthur Smith, the driver of the taxicab, was arrested and charged with manslaughter but was acquitted on the grounds that it was unintentional. The passenger, Dr. David Edson, was the son of former New York City mayor Franklin Edson.


A plaque was dedicated at the site on September 13, 1999, to commemorate the centenary of this event. It reads:

The ceremony was attended by his great-granddaughter, who placed roses on the place where Bliss was struck.

Bliss's death is often stated to have been the first recorded vehicle-related fatality in the Western Hemisphere. However, the Western Hemisphere actually includes all land of the hemisphere west of the prime meridian at Greenwich, and there were two earlier such deaths. Mary Ward was killed by a steam-powered car in Ireland during 1869, and Bridget Driscoll was a pedestrian, killed by a car on the grounds of the Crystal Palace, Sydenham during 1896 (Sydenham is just west of the Prime Meridian).


  1. ^ Dimeo-Ediger, Winona (September 2009). Johns, Chris, ed. "Saved By the Belt". National Geographic (National Geographic Society) 216 (3). ISSN 0027-9358. 

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