By coincidence, Hutton performed an underwater inspection of Milburn's Indiana dam during the 1980s, when his company, Underwater Services Ltd., was hired to do so by a power company.
When railroad officials wouldn't build a spur line to serve his wagon business in Mishawaka, Milburn moved his operation to Toledo, Ohio, where his electric cars were eventually produced.
"These cars originally sold for $1,485, which was about $1,000 more than Fords cost at the time," Hutton said. "It was a high-end car used mainly by urban ladies. They didn't have to worry about getting gas on their frocks, and the car was equipped with flower vases, privacy curtains and wood and brass trim."
Top speed for a Milburn Light Electric is about 15 miles per hour, with a 50-mile range between charges. Its battery, which can be recharged overnight, supplies 70 volts of DC current to its three-horsepower motor.
A tiller bar is used to steer the vehicle and an accelerator bar is used to adjust its speed. The car's cabin is equipped with one bench seat, and a pair of driver-facing, child-size, fold-up jump seats.
Point Pleasant native Karl Probst designed the car before going on to gain fame as the designer of the Jeep, the legendary four-wheel drive vehicle originally produced by American Bantam Car Co. for U.S. Army use during World War II.
"Woodrow Wilson's Secret Service bodyguards used the Milburn Light Electric, and the president drove one around the grounds" at the White House, Hutton said.
"The batteries used in today's hybrid electric cars are many times more efficient than the glass cell batteries with acid and lead plates that were used in this one," Hutton said.
"They've managed to bring the speed of today's electric cars up to normal highway levels. But I think the electric cars of today will be strictly urban vehicles. They're very small and their range is limited. For an alternative to gasoline and diesel engines, I think compressed natural gas is where the future lies."
Friday's activities at the Charleston Boulevard Rod Run & Doo Wop car show include a brown bag lunch aboard the Spirit of West Virginia sternwheeler at 12:10 p.m., followed by a Capitol Cruise from 2 to 3 p.m. and a sunset cruise from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. A free concert by Rick K and the Allnighters begins at 7:30 p.m., followed at 9 p.m. by a lighted boat parade.
Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelham...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.