Thomas L. Fawick and the Fawick Flyer

Last Updated by Brian Gevik on
Teddy Roosevelt & Seth Bullock in a Fawick Flyer. Sioux Falls, 1910.
Siouxland Heritage Museums

In 1908, 19 year old Thomas L. Fawick built an original automobile in his shop on West 13th Street in Sioux Falls.  Originally named the Silent Sioux and later the Fawick Flyer, the car could seat five passengers.

Thomas Fawick's Sioux Falls shopThomas Fawick's shop on West 13th Street.Siouxland Heritage Museums

The coach was made of aluminum instead of steel. The four-cylinder, 40-horsepower engine propelled the car at up to 60 miles per hour. (The speed limit in Sioux Falls at the time was 7 mph, 4 mph around corners.)

Fawick Flyer image circa 1910Fawick Flyer, ca. 1910Siouxland Heritage Museums

Fawick built 5 of the automobiles in Sioux Falls and sold them for $3,000 each. Each of the autos was slightly different. One variant included doors for both the front and rear compartments, making it the first four-door automobile ever manufatured in the U.S.

Teddy Roosevelt in a Fawick FlyerTeddy Roosevelt in a Fawick Flyer - Sioux Falls, 1910Siouxland Heritage Museums

Fawick left Sioux Falls in 1914, living and working in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Cleveland Ohio. An apparently tireless inventor and innovator, Fawick was the holder of some 300 patents, from industrial parts and machines to America's first rubber golf club grips. 

In the photo below, children pose beside a Fawick Flyer and aim "Yankee Boy" toy cannons designed and manufactured by Thomas Fawick's brother, Nevis Oscar Fawick.

Fawick Flyer imageChildren pose beside a Fawick Flyer.Siouxland Heritage Museums

Fawick was also a musician who built violins, wrote music, and collected art.

Drawing of TL FawickThomas L. FawickSiouxland Heritage Museums

Thomas Fawick died in Cleveland, Ohio in 1978.

The Siouxland Heritage Museum’s Fawick Flyer was restored by Thomas Fawick in 1955 to its new condition and the car was donated to the Museum in 1987.

Thomas Fawick with his flyer - 1970sThomas Fawick with his restored flyer.Siouxland Heritage Museums

For Teachers: Activity idea is available at SDPB's Digital Learning Library

Learn more about the life of Thomas Fawick.

View some of the artworks collected by Thomas Fawick at the Cleveland Museum of Art 

Check out a book about Fawick, "The Tom Fawick Story: A Biography of Thomas Fawick" by John E. Depke.