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History of America's First Traffic Ticket

A New York officer pulled over a speeder in Nassau County and entered the history books.

August 31, 2009  |  by

Photo via

Ever wonder which officer wrote the first speeding ticket? Well, the folks at have the answer. The enthusiast blog attributes the story to a Daily News article published in 1959.

The cop wiped streaks of dust from his face, dismounted and stood for a moment beside the auto, scribbling on a pad. He tore off the sheet and handed it to the motorist. The cop was Willie Seaman and the paper was the first traffic summons ever issued in the U.S. The year was 1908.

The fellow with the dubious honor of earning America's first speeding ticket from a motorcycle cop was Charles R. Jones, a resident of Cold Spring Harbor, New York. He was traveling at the breakneck speed of 39 mph!

Seaman was riding an Indian twin, from either 1907 or 1908. The site also includes a gallery of police Indian motorcycles from the 1929 and 1951. And here's a bit more about the Indian twin, which was considered the most advanced motorcyle of its time:

Hitting the road in 1901, Indian was not only the first American motorcycle, it was the world's best-selling bike and, having introduced the first V-twin motorcycle to the world in 1907, the most technologically advanced. Harley-Davidson 1910 models, by contrast, were all singles, producing five horsepower or less.

The type of motorcycle Jones was riding when ticketed isn't known, but he was shown riding a Harley-Davidson in 1914.

In 2002, author Buck Lovell released "American Police Motorcycles," which offers a historical account of police motorcycle units.

Comments (1)

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Pat Brittingham @ 1/4/2016 6:31 AM

Several years ago, I read in a magazine that the first speeding ticket was issued to an Ohio bicyclist in 1904. Today, 3 January 2016, it was stated that the first speeding ticket was writtenin 1908. Researching this via the "Net," I found both; in 1904 to the cyclist, and in 1908 to the cab driver (In New York). The question remains--"When was the first recorded speeding ticket issued?"

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