Carlton Cole “Carl” Magee was born in January of 1872 in Fayette, Iowa.
He graduated from Upper Iowa University in 1896 with a law degree and moved to Oklahoma, becoming an attorney in early-day Tulsa, Oklahoma.
In 1919, Carl moved from Tulsa to Albuquerque, New Mexico. In 1922, Carl founded his own newspaper, Magee’s Independent. In 1923, Carl changed his papers name to the New Mexico State Tribune
Then, as the owner and editor of the New Mexico State Tribune, Carl helped uncover and implicate Albert B. Fall in the famous Teapot Dome scandal. When a judge Magee had once accused of corruption knocked him down in a hotel lobby, Carl drew his pistol and it fired, accidentally killing a bystander. Carl Magee was acquitted of manslaughter, but moved to Oklahoma City in 1927 to start another newspaper, the Oklahoma News.
In the 1920’s and 1930’s, traffic congestion problems in Oklahoma City typified those of most major American cities of the day.
By 1930. there were an estimated 500,000 cars in Oklahoma, most of which were registered in Oklahoma County and the capital city of Oklahoma City.
The problem was that people who worked downtown occupied all of the parking spots every day, forcing retail customers to park far away from stores. The city had placed time limits on parking, with enforcement performed by traffic police who chalked tires, marked time, and gave tickets on hourly rounds. The parking situation came under scrutiny by the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce when in 1932 they appointed Carl Magee chairman of the Traffic Committee. Carl then assumed the task of solving the parking problem.
Carl decided that the situation required the invention of a small, inexpensively made, mechanical device to “time” the use of each parking space.
He designed and built a crude windable parking meter and on December 21, 1932, filed for a patent.
In order to refine his concept and build a real working prototype, Carl joined forces with the Oklahoma State University Engineering Department. Together, they sponsored a design competition with prize money of $160 for the winning design and $240 for the submission of a working model. The contest ran from February 17 to May 6, 1933.
While several students built models, unfortunately none of the submissions were acceptable.
Professor H. G. Thuesen joined the project soon afterward and enlisted the help of Gerald A. Hale, former engineering student and 1927 OSU graduate.
For the new parking meter model, dubbed the “Black Maria,” they created the interior parts; a local plumber made the exterior shell.
By late 1933, Carl Magee, Thuesen, and Hale began looking for a manufacturer.
The MacNick Company of Tulsa, makers of timing devices used to explode nitroglycerin in oil wells, was contracted to manufacture the unit.
Carl filed for a new patent for this “coin controlled parking meter” May 13, 1935.
Then, on July 16, 1935, 175 meters were installed and tested on fourteen blocks in Oklahoma City.
When the system proved successful, the city placed meters all over downtown.
Carl Magee then raised money from 125 businessmen and incorporated the Dual Parking Meter Company, with offices in the Commerce and Exchange Building, Oklahoma City.
The original units were first trademarked as the “Dual” and later as the “Park-O-Meter,” under patents held by Carl Magee.
After World War II a new organization, Magee-Hale Park-O-Meter Company, manufactured the product in Oklahoma City, and Dual was sold to an Ohio company.
The immediate impact of Carl’s parking meter was threefold.
First, it straightened out Oklahoma City’s parking problem.
Second, it brought revenue into the city coffers through meter money (a nickel an hour) and parking fines (a twenty-dollar fine for each violation). Third, it stimulated a huge growth in the assessed valuation of downtown commercial property.
Carl C. Magee had started a trend, and parking meters sprang up in cities all across the nation, and ultimately worldwide.
His coin controlled parking meter patent, #2,118,318, was finally issued May 24, 1938.
Carl Magee died in Tulsa, Oklahoma on February 1, 1946 from coronary thrombosis.
Today there are an estimated five million parking meters in use.
Now WE know em