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Photographic Portraits by Lafayette from the Collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Motoring Prime Ministers


The July 1902 edition of The Car Illustrated published a series of portraits of British and Colonial premiers to celebrate the membership of Prime Minister Arthur Balfour [seen to the right] in the Automobile Club. This was, as the Hon. John Scott Montague MP said in the welcoming address, “a historical event of no mean importance…, for although there have been many Premiers who have owned race-horses, there has never been one before that has owned a motor-car, or been recognised equally as an enthusiast and an authority, in relation to mechanical propulsion.”

Lord Salisbury [seen above left] was Arthur Balfour’s uncle and himself three times Prime Minister between 1885 and 1902. He, a veteran tricyclist, is photographed in the newest type of Locomobile light steam-car, which he had recently bought for himself, convinced of its ”handiness and noiselessness.”

The portrait of Lord Balfour [seen to the right] was also issued as a hand-coloured postcard. Balfour was the first Prime Minister to bring a motor car to the Premier’s official residence at No 10, Downing Street.


Automobilist colonial premiers at the home of Lord Onslow, photographed by Lafayette, July 1902.
The motor car’s potential was quickly spotted by international politicians. Like the telegraph and telephone,
the motor car, enabled much speedier communications which all led to a much greater efficiency of administration.


All texts copyright Barbara Borkowy and Russell Harris 2007