16 July 1935: the world’s first parking meter is installed

Parking meters took off in the 1930s

You can imagine Reverend CH North’s frustration. Having just pulled up in his car in Oklahoma City, he hopped out and rummaged around in his pocket for loose change for the parking meter. Finding none, he ran to the nearest shop to get some.

To his disgust, when he returned to his car, he found he had been given a ticket. It was the first ticket ever given for a parking meter infringement. The year was 1935.

The good reverend wasn’t going to take this lying down. He promptly took the parking meter company to court – and lost. He thus became the meters’ first ever victim.

Two years before that fateful incident, shop owners had been fuming that drivers were hogging the parking spaces outside their shops. This, they complained, prevented other customers from visiting. Banding together, they approached a local newspaper editor, Carl C Magee, who launched a competition to design a timing device to regulate how long drivers were parked.

Engineering professors Holger George Thuesen and Gerald A Hale won the $500 prize for ‘the Black Maria’ – the first fully operational parking meter. Magee patented a modified design and set up the Magee-Hale Park-O-Meter Company.

On 16 July 1935, just a month before Reverend North fell foul of the spring-loaded machines, the first meters were installed down one side of the road. The affected shop owners were so chuffed that the shop owners on the other side of the road demanded to have parking meters too.

The meters continued to be made in Oklahoma up until 1963, when the factory moved to Arkansas. However, despite changes in design and technology, Park-O-Meter Company meters are still made today under the name of POM.

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