Bellingham history exhibit features early electric car


A history exhibit about Fairhaven businessman and civic leader J.J. Donovan will have special features of interest to car lovers and music lovers.

• A 1914 Detroit Electric, an early all-electric car, will be on display July 27-28 by the back steps of Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall building, and for the entire month of August in the lobby of the museum's Lightcatcher building.

Women often owned the car because it didn't require arduous hand-cranking needed for early gas engines. Donovan's wife, Clara, owned one.

The Detroit Electric is 7 feet tall, has curved window glass, and steers with a tiller, not a wheel. The car is on loan from the LeMay Family Collection Foundation in Tacoma.

• Heidi Grant-Murphy, the Metropolitan Opera soprano performing at the Bellingham Festival of Music, recorded "Class Ode of 77," a piece of music arranged by Clara (Nichols) Donovan.

Clara, a musician and pianist, and her future husband graduated from Plymouth Normal School in New Hampshire in 1877, and she arranged the music for their graduation. The exhibit will display the sheet music and viewers can hear Grant-Murphy's recording.

• "Treasures from the Trunk: The Story of J.J. Donovan," an ongoing history exhibit, opens at noon Sunday, July 28, at Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall building, 121 Prospect St.

Reach Dean Kahn at 360-715-2291 or

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