From the owner's manual for a 1904 Cadillac.

To start the motor

  • First. Open the throttle.
  • Second. Turn the switch.
  • Third. Retard the spark lever.
  • Fourth. See that controlling lever {what would now be called the gearshift} is in neutral.
  • Fifth. Insert starting crank in end of shaft, turn crank (in direction indicated by arrow under fly wheel) until the compression is felt to resist further motion, then turn the engine quickly over compression once.
If engine fails to start, "prime it" by priming rod until gasoline flows ... in extreme cold weather ... it may be necessary to saturate a handkerchief with gasoline and hold in the hands a few seconds, then place over the intake air pipe. This warms the mixture and aids in starting a cold motor on a zero morning.

A Few Don'ts

  • Don't try to start without the switch turned on.
  • Don't throw high speed lever forward before low speed lever is released or vice versa, or a broken crank shaft may result.
  • Don't try to run without oil, water, and gasoline.
Transitional Man points out that a car backfire could break the cranker's arm in that era. morven says broken fingers would be more likely, but from his experience with a 1902 car: "To mitigate the risk, holding the hand crank in both cupped hands with fingers interlaced, with the thumbs tucked in rather than over the handle, is safest -- that way, the handle will 'jump' out of the cranker's grasp should it happen, hopefully!"

Cadillac Motor Company, Instructions for Operation and Care of the Single Cylinder Cadillac. Detroit: 1904; reprinted in: Ierley, Merritt. Wondrous Contrivances: Technology at the Threshold. New York: Clarkson Potter Publishers, 2002.

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