Death of Henry H. Bliss

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Henry Bliss, 1873

The death of Henry H. Bliss (June 13, 1830 – September 14, 1899) was the first recorded case of a person being killed by a motor vehicle accident in America.[1]

Automobile crash[edit]

On September 13, 1899, Henry Hale Bliss 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.[2]

Arthur Smith, the driver of the taxicab, was arrested and charged with manslaughter but was acquitted on the grounds that he had no malice, nor was he negligent.

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 stepdaughter, Mary Alice Altmont Livingston, who assumed the surname "Fleming", was tried for the murder of her mother, Bliss's ex-wife, Evelina Bliss, by means of poisoned chowder. She was found innocent. [3]

See also[edit]

  • Mary Ward – the first person known to have been killed by an automobile, Ireland, 1869
  • Bridget Driscoll – the first pedestrian to be killed in a collision with an automobile in the UK
  • Elaine Herzberg – the first pedestrian to be killed in an autonomous motor car accident


  1. ^ In this context "Western Hemisphere" means "The half of the earth comprising North and South America and surrounding waters."


  1. ^ Dimeo-Ediger, Winona (September 2009). Johns, Chris (ed.). "Saved By the Belt". National Geographic. National Geographic Society. 216 (3). ISSN 0027-9358.
  2. ^ "Fatally Hurt by Automobile" (PDF), The New York Times, New York City, September 14, 1899
  3. ^ Livingston, James D. (2012). Arsenic and Clam Chowder: Murder in Gilded Age New York. Albany, New York: SUNY Press. ISBN 978-1-4384-3179-6.

External links[edit]