Horatio's Drive: America's First Road Trip

Season 1
Horatio's Drive recounts the inspirational and hilarious saga of Horatio Nelson Jackson, an eccentric Vermont doctor, who in 1903, on a visionary whim and a 50-dollar bet, became the first person to drive an automobile across the continent.
Keith DavidTom Hanks
Special Interest
English [CC]
Audio languages

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  1. 1. Horatio's Drive: America's First Road Trip
    October 5, 2003
    1 h 46 min
    English [CC]
    Audio languages
    Horatio's Drive recounts the inspirational and hilarious saga of Horatio Nelson Jackson, an eccentric Vermont doctor, who in 1903, on a visionary whim and a 50-dollar bet, became the first person to drive an automobile across the continent.

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Ken Burns
Dayton DuncanKen Burns
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4.7 out of 5 stars

219 global ratings

  1. 82% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 11% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 1% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 3% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 3% of reviews have 1 stars

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Top reviews from the United States

Ron VincentReviewed in the United States on November 11, 2020
5.0 out of 5 starsAn intriguing documentary that takes you on a ride across America in 1903
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Horatio Nelson Jackson made a fifty dollar bet in San Francisco in 1903 that he could drive across the United States. With Samuel Crocker, a mechanic, and a bull terrier, Horatio set out to do the improbable with no experience, no corporate sponsor. His trip could have imploded for a variety of reasons: mountains, non- existent roads, dangerous weather, mechanical failures, and pure bad luck. The story that matters here is the determination of one man to overcome uncertainty, exhaustion, and enormous distances. The journey is fascinating and inspiring without being saccharine. Well worth viewing.
One person found this helpful
SuruReviewed in the United States on March 6, 2021
3.0 out of 5 starsIt's OK
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We own many antique cars and love to read or watch any documentaries about them. This one was ok. It was well done and interesting, but maybe a tad too long. I didn't really feel like I got to know the characters very well. They were just a doctor and his mechanic who made a crazy bet. I wish there was more insight into their lives so we got to know them a little better. Also, the description talks about the "hilarious" adventure, but I think I might have laughed once during the whole show. It was definitely not a comedy. The vintage photos and history are what made this a good film, not so much the story.
madrodgerReviewed in the United States on June 15, 2021
5.0 out of 5 starsGreat adventure documentary
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This documentary gives a wonderful picture into the state of technology in the US around the turn of the 20th century. It also gives read insight into the can-do spirit that drove the accomplishments of that generation, a spirit that is not easily found these days. Think about the bravery and confidence it took to strike out into what was even then, hundreds of miles of poorly mapped wilderness. I also loved the excerpts of Horatio's letters to his wife, who he dearly loved and sorely missed during his journey. I'll bet they spent some real quality time together when he finally made it.
BevReviewed in the United States on November 5, 2019
5.0 out of 5 starsA Wonderful Documentary
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I have enjoyed everything Ken Burns has done. I already bought this many years ago but loaned it to the wrong person who never returned it so I bought it a second time. That should tell you how much I enjoyed watching it. I have already loaned this out to a friend and if I don't get it back I will not hesitate to buy it a third time. It is educational and very funny. Everyone will enjoy watching it.
2 people found this helpful
Christine RautenkranzReviewed in the United States on December 5, 2016
5.0 out of 5 starsGreat, all-American story. Love it!
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I could go on and on about this show and usually do to anyone who will listen. I LOVE this story! I am a car guy, so this all-American tale really makes me smile. The first cross-country drive, and taken simply because it was there (un-collected wager aside) is a great tale. I was lucky enough to see The Vermont at the Smithsonian last year, and, having watched this several times and enjoying it no less each time, considered myself very lucky to see actual subject right there in person. If you haven't seen this story, you owe it to yourself to watch it. And if you have... eh, watch it again! It's still good!
6 people found this helpful
JoyReviewed in the United States on December 6, 2018
5.0 out of 5 starsHorario comes to life through letters home
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I watched this with my family after our Thanksgiving meal. It was a delight. Informative and engaging. You could easily enter into the story of Horatio’s first drive across America, through the daily letters he wrote home to his beloved wife. It started out as a bet that he couldn’t make it. Then it turned into a race to see who was going to make it first. The pictures, letters, and living history kept your interest throughout the documentary; that edged close to a movie... at least for me. I loved it.
One person found this helpful
D AndertonReviewed in the United States on May 11, 2014
5.0 out of 5 starsDelightful Documentary
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Ken Burns tells the tale of Horatio Jackson...the first person to make a trans-continental auto trip (San Francisco) to New York by auto.
Done in 1903--three years before the San Francisco earthquake over roads that in places were little more that wagon trails.

Over a period of roughly two months, Dr. Jackson, his mechanic and adopted dog "Bud" traversed the nation giving many rural residents their first glimpse of an automobile. A mechanical marvel that the rural residents of Idaho took to calling the "go like hell machine".

Tom Hanks serves as the voice of Dr. Jackson reading his copious letters to his very patient wife.

A rare glimpse back to the world before it was overwhelmed by the automobile.

One of Ken Burns' finest films.
7 people found this helpful
Kathleen M. AndersenReviewed in the United States on November 11, 2020
5.0 out of 5 starsInteresting history
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Horatio's Drive is a part of history and this documentary is great and entertaining. He was a wonderful down to earth guy that his perseverance and drive won out. I loved the dog too.
One person found this helpful
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