Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
In a century still in its infancy, horses were approaching the end of the line on the streets of Washington. Technology was taking over. The Post reported a dramatic clash between machine and beast on Dec. 7, 1903. An excerpt:
Mgr. O'Connell, rector of the Catholic University, had a narrow escape from death at 5:40 o'clock yesterday afternoon, when a public cab, in which he was seated, was struck by an electric car, completely demolished and the horse thrown backward into an open sewer thirty feet deep. The distinguished churchman was not injured, and went immediately to the assistance of his driver, who got off with a bad sprain of the left arm.
The accident occurred only a few yards from the college gate. How Mgr. O'Connell escaped with his life the police cannot understand, and the escape of the horse from death is equally strange, for the sewer is supported inside by four tiers of heavy beams through which the animal fell.
By the force of the collision Mgr. O'Connell was thrown to the very brink of the deep excavation of the new sewer in course of construction on Michigan avenue, upon which the college grounds face. Six inches farther and he must have gone over, when he could not have escaped with his life. The cab was completely wrecked. Making his way from the ruins with admirable coolness, Mgr. O'Connell hurried to the assistance of the driver, Daniel F. Callan, of 128 F street northwest, who was thrown several feet and slightly stunned.
The rector, after satisfying himself that no one had been killed, walked to the sewer and looked in. As he caught sight of the horse lying upon its back in the bottom of the pit, tears came to his eyes.
"It is a dispensation of Providence," said Mgr. O'Connell. "I do not understand how my life was spared or how the driver escaped. It is the mercy of the Almighty Father." ...
The trip to the university was made without incident until Michigan avenue, near the university, was reached. The street there is very narrow and is taken up almost entirely by the tracks of the Brookland electric car line. On one side of the road is a high bank, and on the other the new Michigan avenue and Harewood road sewer. ... The sewer runs parallel to the tracks, only a few feet from them, and at the point the accident happened it turns slightly and tunnels under the rails.
Right behind the carriage containing Mgr. O'Connell came car 16 of the Brookland line, eastbound. ... Callan, the cab driver, heard the approaching car and shouted a warning.
"I heard the cry," said Mgr. O'Connell last night, "but what could I do? On one side was the track in front of the electric car and on the other the open sewer 30 feet deep. Death either way. I could not jump, so I stayed inside."
At this point the car crashed into the back of the cab. The wheels of the vehicle were torn spoke from spoke, the body was demolished, the front wheels and axle torn off, and the cab lifted into the air, all without even scratching Mgr. O'Connell. ...
The horse, plunging and rearing, freed itself from the two front wheels, and with broken portions of the shaft attached to the harness, it went over the edge of the big hole and plunged backward into the pit. ...
But the animal did not appear to have been seriously injured.