Women in Transportation History – Anita King, 1st Solo Female Transcontinental Driver

Anita King (1884-1963) was a silent-film star who achieved an additional measure of fame for establishing a transportation record. In 1915, King – at the time a Famous Players Film Company actress whose first film had been the Cecil B. De Mille western “The Virginian” – became the first woman to make a transcontinental solo trip in an automobile across the United States. (Alice Huyler Ramsey was the first woman to drive across the U.S., but she made her 1909 trip with three other women as her passengers.)

The Indiana-born King was no stranger to automobiles. After moving to the west coast sometime around 1908, she developed a strong interest in those vehicles after working as a model at automobile shows in California. King learned how to drive and started to participate in automobile races. After an accident during a competition in Arizona, King gave up her racing career and focused on acting in Hollywood.

King maintained a love for automobiles, however, and ultimately decided to put her driving experience to good use by setting a new record for women. King undertook her historic coast-to-coast trek with support from Famous Players Film Company executive Jesse L. Lasky and an automobile provided by the Kissel Motor Car Company. Nicknamed “The Paramount Girl” (Famous Players Film Company released its films through Paramount Pictures Corporation), King began her ambitious ride by leaving Hollywood in her newly acquired KisselKar on August 25, 1915.

After stopping in San Francisco for several publicity appearances at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, King headed eastward for the Atlantic coast. The press covered her long-distance ride extensively, and she made a number of promotional stops at cities en route.

Finally, 55 days after departing Hollywood, King finished her journey on October 19. “MOVIE STAR ENDS TRIP,” proclaimed a headline in the San Francisco Chronicle. “Completing one of the most daring undertakings by a woman that the annals of the automobile industry record, Miss Anita King, ‘The Paramount Girl,’ who left San Francisco on September 1st last in a KisselKar to drive across the continent unescorted by anyone, arrived in New York City,” reported the newspaper. As King herself recalled, “There were redeeming features of the journey – many of them – else I never could have held out.”

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