Sometimes billed as the proprietor of the “oldest established automobile dealer in Salt Lake City,” Mr. August Stocker operated one of the earliest auto dealerships along the Wasatch Front and specialized in luxury vehicles.
Born in Switzerland in 1876, August Stocker immigrated as a single young man to the United States and arrived in America in 1900 at the age of 24. He arrived in Salt Lake City in January of 1903 at the behest of the Olds Motor Works (now Oldsmobile).
He judged Salt Lake to be a good city for the future of the automobile and he soon settled in Salt Lake City and opened his own automotive dealership on. May 1, 1903; however, he did not feature any Olds Motor Works vehicles.
His shop was located at 71 South State Street in downtown Salt Lake City, opposite the Salt Lake Theater (which still stands today).
At the time he opened his dealership in 1903, only a few other automobile dealerships existed in Salt Lake City; most notably the Utah Automobile Company which relocated its shop in April 1904 to 57 Market Street. This address change is what lead August Stocker to claim his dealership as the “oldest established automobile dealer” in Utah.
By 1907, according to an article in the Salt Lake Telegram, 281 automobiles were registered to individuals in Salt Lake City, with August Stocker being #94.
August Stocker dealt in the fine quality automobile niche and focused on three particular high-end vehicles: the Haynes, the Autocar, and the Peerless. All three manufactures are now part of a long list of now defunct United States automobile manufactures.
A 1911 fully equipped Haynes Model 19 sold for $2,000 (adjusted for inflation, about $46,400 today). The Model 19 was manufactured in Kokomo, Indiana; the body made from three-ply wood with a cold rolled pressed steel frame. It weighted 2,500 pounds and advertized as having 30 horsepower with a four cylinder engine and a gas tank capacity of 15 gallons.
The automobile sales industry was highly competitive and August Stocker struggled to find adequate sales base in Salt Lake, often loosing out to the other 15 or so automobile dealers in the area who sold the lower priced, and often lower quality, vehicles.
By 1914, August Stocker advertized that the Haynes automobile car had the “most complete electric equipment with the adoption of the Vulcan electric gearshift, supplementing the electric generator and starter. It make’s the gasoline car just as easy to operate as the electric vehicle. At one swoop it has made possible the use of the motor car by women…a touch of the switch and your motor is spinning.” (Salt Lake Telegram Feb 14 1914).
Sometime between 1915 and 1918, August Stocker gave up the automobile sales business and sold his shop at 71 South State Street to C.E. Wakefield, who operated his own automobile repair shop: the Wakefield Repair Shop.
In 1919, August Stocker struck a 10 year old boy (Edward Cook) with his automobile near the intersection of 900 South and about 750 East in Salt Lake City. The boy sustained injuries, including the dislocation of the left shoulder and fracture of the left arm.
Soon thereafter, August Stocker relocated to San Francisco, living in the Hotel Hale on Mission Street in San Francisco. He lived at the hotel for a couple of decades and eventually died in Oakland, California in 1969 at the age of 93. August Stocker never married and had no children.
Sources: original research by author through newspaper articles, city directories, and US census data.