J. C. Thomas and His Windmobile

Thanks to a Crisp-Ellert grant the library was able to scan all of our glass plate and 3×5 negatives. While a some of the images are identified many more are not and I will go through them to see if I can add some metadata to them.

The saying is that a picture is worth a thousand words but other times an image can raise almost as many questions. One group of photos did just that for me. It should a man in a stripped-down car with a propeller on the front. He was surrounded by men in suits, photographers and several men with movie cameras. The car had Thomas Windmobile painted on it. I could not find any more information about the images and put them away. Then recently the library received a letter with a photocopy in it. It was from the May, 1940 issue of Popular Science. At the top of the page was a picture of the man and his strange car. The short article was entitled “Breezes Power Electric Car.” The article said:

“Free air takes the place of gasoline to drive what J. C. Thomas of St. Augustine Fla. calls his ‘windmobile’. While he parks, the breezes turn the windmill at the front, operating a generator that charges the machine’s twelve storage batteries. Then, through an electric motor, the batteries propel the odd car at speeds up to fifty miles an hour. According to the inventor’s figures it costs him a quarter of a cent a mile.”

That is all I can find about the Windmobile but I was able to learn about Mr. Thomas. Jessie C. Thomas Jr. was born in 1897 in Batavia, NY. His father was a grocer and they lived in Batavia until the late 1920s when they moved to St. Augustine. From the records Jesse C. Thomas was married briefly while in Batavia. The 1920 census showed he was an apprentice in a jewelry store. A 1925 Batavia city directory said he was an actor; and the 1930 census, when he was living in St. Augustine; he was a planter in an orange grove. The 1940 census lists his occupation as an inventor, working for himself.

During the Second World War he enlisted in the Coast Guard serving until September of 1945. Where he lived after the war is unclear. According to the request for a veteran’s headstone he died in 1961 and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery.