Death of Henry H. Bliss

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Henry Hale Bliss, photo taken in Paris, France, 1873

The death of Henry Hale Bliss (June 13, 1830 – September 14, 1899) was the first recorded person to be killed in a motor vehicle collision in America.[1]

Hit by a taxiEdit

On September 13, 1899, Henry Hale Bliss, a 69 year old local real estate dealer accompanied by a passenger named "Lee" was knocked from a streetcar at West 74th Street and Central Park West in New York City, as he was aligthing from a south bound 8th Avenue trolley car, when an electric-powered taxicab (Automobile No. 43) struck him and he hit the pavement and crushed his head and chest. He was taken by ambulance to Roosevelt Hospital, but upon arrival the house surgeon, Dr. Marny said his injuries where to severe to survive and Bliss died from his sustained injuries the next morning.[2]

Arthur Smith, the driver of the taxicab, claimed that a large truck occupied the right side of the avenue, making it neccessary to drive his vehicle closer to the car, however he was arrested and charged with manslaughter but was subsequently acquitted on the grounds that he had no malice, nor was he negligent.

The passenger of the taxi-cab, Dr. David Orr 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 alsoEdit

  • Mary Ward – (1827-1869) Anglo-Irish scientist, the first person known to have been killed by an automobile, Ireland, 1869
  • Bridget Driscoll – (1851/1852-1896) 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 crash


  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 linksEdit