Harry Oscar


Harry Oscar Bell


K. Ross Toole and Pat Morris



Download Audio Interview (88.8 MB)

Download Transcript of H.O. Bell Interview, April 26, 1966 (336 KB)


Harry Oscar “H.O.” Bell describes working as a mechanic and race car driver in Indianapolis, Indiana, before moving to Spokane, Washington, where he opened Rose’s Automobile Company, the town’s first automobile garage, in 1906. He talks about moving to Missoula, Montana, in 1912 to open the first auto business there, providing service as a mechanic and selling Ford Model-Ts. Bell explains the mechanics of early automobiles as well as the dangers of early driving, including the volatility of gas and lack of battery powered lights. He describes how he helped invent a lead plug for a gas tank to remedy the issue of gas exploding, and he recalls the institution of the “7 percent system of highways” in 1926, due to the rising popularity of automobiles and the need for paved roads. Bell also describes how the Great Depression affected his business.


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Document Type

Oral History


Spokane, Washington; Indianapolis, Indiana; Auto mechanics; Automobile garages; Auto dealers; Road construction; Lead plug; Rose’s Automobile Company; Ford Model-T; Ford Model-A; Great Depression (1929-1939)

Original Date


Time Period

Twentieth century

Geographic Coverage




Original Collection

Harry Oscar “H.O.” Bell Interviews Oral History Project, OH 024, Archives and Special Collections, Mansfield Library, University of Montana-Missoula

Digital Publisher

University of Montana--Missoula. Mansfield Library


Copyright to this collection is held by the interview participants and by the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library, University of Montana-Missoula. Permission may be required for use. For further information please contact Archives and Special Collections: (406) 243-2053 / library.archives@umontana.edu

Oral History Number

OH 024-002

Media Type

Sound; Text

Original Format

1 reel-to-reel analog + 1 transcript (26 p.: 28 cm.)

Digital Format

audio/mp3; application/pdf

Run Time

01:15:06 minutes

Local Filename

OH_024_002.mp3; OH_024_002.pdf

Harry Oscar