First Parking Meter Installed July 16, 1935
Today, in 1935, the very first parking meter was installed at the corner of First Street and Robinson Avenue, in downtown Oklahoma City, OK
Carlton Cole “Carl” Magee, attorney and newspaper editor was the fiendish, evil, bastard genius who invented this motorist tormenting device 73 years ago.
As the story goes Magee, came up with the idea shortly after he was named Chairman of the Oklahoma City’s Chamber of Commerce Traffic Committee in 1933.
In his quest to design a working parking meter, he sought the help of Gerald A. Hale and Professor H.G. Thuesen over at Oklahoma State University, whom assisted Magee in making his idea a reality.
According to an article by Bonnie Loyd, in the Spring, 1988 edition of Whole Earth Review:
By the 1930s automobiles were flooding America, and parking was first becoming a problem. Downtown merchants worried because business suffered when parking spots were clogged with the same cars all day long. Carl Magee, an Oklahoma newspaperman with a checkered past, thought up a solution — a coin-operated timer — but he didn’t know how to make it work. Two professors at Oklahoma State University (Prof. H.G. Thueson and Gerald A.Hale–ed. geek) listened to Magee’s idea and developed an operating model. The first 150 parking meters were installed in downtown Oklahoma City on 16 July 1935 (allegedly installed them under the cover of darkness!–ed. geek). The meters charged a nickel an hour. They were not a hit.
Many citizens were outraged. They claimed it was un-American to pay for parking, and some initiated court actions to remove the meters. The battle attracted national attention, but the meters stayed.
According to accounts Oklahoma City paid a whopping $23 per parking meter to the Dual Parking Meter Company–the company Magee founded to manufacture parking meters. It was named “Dual” because, as the story goes, the meters served two purposes, one for controlling parking and two, for revenue generation.
By 1951, just 16 years later, one million parking meters dotted the American scene.
Magee died in Tulsa, OK in 1946. However, his infernal invention, unfortunately, lives on.
Magee’s meter No. 1 currently resides within a glass case in the State Museum of History in Oklahoma City.
GEEK NOTE: Some accounts list July 14th or 15th as this red letter day in American history. However, most records, including the Oklahoma History Center, have it listed as July 16th.