The Means/Catlin Mythology Strikes Again: 1915 and NSSN

In his 23 March 2015 California Coast column appearing in what is now an online National Speed Sport News, thanks to the demise of the print version several years ago, Tim Kennedy writes about a get-together in Venice on 17 March to commemorate the centennial of the Venice road race won by Barney Oldfield.

While certainly the sort of event that one wishes one could have attended, especially with Harold Osmer as one of the speakers. The Kennedy article has a typo of the sort that can certainly drive writers to distraction: the circuit length is given as 1.3 miles, not the actual 3.1 miles for a lap.He also includes this in the article:

The Venice GP was round six of a 27 race 1915 AAA National Championship Trail. Nine races were on road courses, seven on dirt ovals and Indianapolis Motor Speedway was classified a brick oval. Points were not awarded in 1915. Later points were awarded and Earl Cooper was named 1915 national champion. Ten race distances were 100-miles. Other distances were 300, 350, 400 and 500 miles (Indy 500) on May 31. The season ran from Jan. 9 to Nov. 25.

Race sites prior to Venice were a San Diego road course on Jan. 9, Glendale road course on Feb. 3, Ascot dirt oval on Feb. 7, and two on a road course in San Francisco – American Grand Prize on Feb. 27 and Wm. K. Vanderbilt Cup – March 6. Following Venice, on March 20 teams raced 103.152 miles on the Tucson road course. Subsequent races were in Oklahoma City, Galesburg, Ill., Chicago, Sioux City, Tacoma oval (July 4-5), Omaha, Burlington, Des Moines, Chicago, Elgin, Ill. road course (Aug. 20-21), Kalamazoo, Minneapolis, Providence, Astor Cup-Sheepshead Bay (Oct. 9), Harkness Gold Medal Race at Sheepshead (Nov. 2), Phoenix dirt oval (Nov. 20) and San Francisco dirt oval 100 (the third SF race).

There was, of course, not a AAA national championship contested in 1915. That points were later awarded resulting in Earl Cooper being the champion for that season does not necessarily make Cooper the champion for that season. Indeed, using the Mason Point System that was devised by Harold T. Mason and first used in 1914 in MoToR and whose use was which shifted to The Horseless Age in 1915, Cooper does emerge with the highest points total overall, 51 points. Cooper was the leading road racing driver from Barney Oldfield by the razor-thin margin of 24 points to 23 7/8th points, with Dario Resta right behind at 20 points. On speedways, however, he was second to Eddie Rickenbacher, whose 32 points led Cooper, 27 points, Eddie O’Donnell, 24 points, and Gil Anderson (actually, Andersen), 21 points.

Motor Age selected Cooper as the road racing champion driver, with Anderson as its speedway champion driver and Rickenbacher as the champion driver for the short tracks. MoToR proclaimed Cooper as the road racing champion driver and Resta as the speedway champion driver.

So, while there is little doubt that Earl Cooper was certainly worthy of consideration of consideration as the champion driver for the 1915 season, he was not without competition for the title. That title, of course, being retroactively granted in 1927 by Arthur Means.

The almost Orwellian twist that Russ Catlin presents for justifying the retroactively-created national champions is really rather fascinating, stating that those who claim that there were no contemporary AAA champions for 1909-1915 and 1917-1919, suggesting that while this might be “technically” correct, “historically” they are wrong.

Oh, my…..

Review of the Year in Racing: 1908

I had long assumed, in the absence of any evidence to  the contrary, that “Road Racing at Home and Abroad in 1908” by C.G. “Chris” Sinsabaugh was the first of its type. Appearing in the 7 January 1909 issue of Motor Age (Volume 15, No. 1), the article covered American and European road racing for the 1908 season (28-33). It also covered the following American contests of 1908: reliability runs (34-36); hill climbs (37); “Other branches of motoring sport” — with track racing being notably absent, (38-40); and, “Support given competitions by makers” (40-41).

However, a week prior to the Sinsabaugh review it seems that The Motor World published its “Review of the Year in Racing” for the 1908 season. Appearing in the 31 December 1908 (Volume 19, No. 14) issue of the automotive journal, unlike the review in Motor Age, this review does not carry a byline. Also, as with Sinsabaugh, Its coverage tends to focus on road racing, although The Motor World review devotes some attention to the war between  the A.A.A. and the A.C.A., a topic that Sinsabaugh generally omits from his survey of the 1908 season.

Searches of earlier volumes of The Motor World as well as other contemporary American automotive journals have failed to discover an earlier review devoted exclusively to motor sport. There might be an earlier seasonal review of automotive contests lurking somewhere out there, but thanks to gaps in the archival material or simply overlooking it, I have yet to find it.

Branford Park: 1899 or 1900?

I will admit to being a bit confused about the date — regarding the year, no less — for a race held at Branford Park, New Haven, Connecticut. It had two feature events, one for three-wheeled vehicles and one for four-wheeled vehicles, both being run in three heats. I had always assumed that the meeting took place in 1899. I think that there is now sufficient reason to suggest that the date is off a year.

Although there is not a specific date provided for an event held at Branford Park, the Betts Brothers (1) have it taking place during 1899. This date is also reflected in Al Bochroch’s American Automobile Racing: An Illustrated History (2) — probably since it is using the Betts Brothers data in the appendix listing American racing events.

In his The History of America’s Speedways, Past & Present, Allan Brown places the date as 25 July 1899 in his entry on Branford Park, indicating that the race took place on that date. Or, that it may have taken on that date since it is rendered as “(7/25/1899-c. 7/25/1900),” which usually indicates the dates during which a track was active.(3) Initially, I thought I sensed an element of doubt by Brown regarding the date. However, in 2008, Brown clearly states that, “Connecticut’s first recorded auto race was at Branford Park, a horse-racing track in New Haven, on July 25, 1899.” (4) This would seem to indicate that Brown was very confident regarding the date.

It was not until I begin digging a bit into the very early automotive competitions in the United States for a possible paper on these events during the Late Victorian Era, 1895 to 1901, did I begin to sense that there might be a problem with the date. I looked for anything relating to an automobile or “horseless carriage” or “tricycle” or “motor vehicle” race held at Branford Park in 1899. Instead, I discovered articles in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune on an event held at Branford Park in 1900. (5) Initially, I thought this was a later event, but the winner listed by Betts was Hiram Percy Maxim in a Columbia — who was also listed as the winner of the first five-mile heat for four-wheeled vehicles in both the New York and Chicago papers.

This would strongly suggest that the Branford Park event took place on 25 July 1900 – and not in 1899 as the Betts and Brown dated the event. I am at a loss as how to explain that both Brown and the Betts getting the date wrong by an entire year, although Brown seemed to sense, at least at one point, either some doubt or at least ambivalence regarding the date.

It is interesting to note that both the Times and the Tribune articles state that the Branford Park meeting was, “The first automobile race meet ever held on a race track in this country,” as the Times stated it. The Tribune article had the sub-heading, “Track Racing for Motor Vehicles Inaugurated in America,” making the same claim as the Times. Of course, there is the awkward problem of the race meeting held at Narragansett Park – a horse-racing track – in September 1896, which would tend to cast doubt on this claim. In addition, there is also the event run in October 1899 on the Galesburg District Fair Grounds, which was essentially a match race scheduled for 50 miles which was halted at 15 miles after one of the competitors had dropped out. (6)

So, this is yet another correction that needs to be made to the Record Book.


Thanks to a program provided by Mark Sanders, it can be firmly established that the event held at Branford, Connecticut, took place in 1900. The program for the “First International Automobile Exposition and Races Ever Held in America,” carries the date of 25 and 26 July 1900. The venue is given as Branford Driving Park, Branford, Connecticut.


1. Charles L. Betts, Auto Racing Winners, 1895-1947: An Historical Reference Manual of American Automobile Racing (Philadelphia: Betts Brothers Racing Automobiliana, 1948), 4.
2. Albert Bochroch, American Automobile Racing: An Illustrated History (New York: Penguin Books, 1977), 207.
3. Allan Brown, The History of America’s Speedways, Past & Present (Comstock, Michigan: Allan E. Brown, 2003), 182.
4. Allen E. Brown, “Destination: A Short History of Connecticut’s Racetracks,” Hog River Journal, Summer 2008., accessed 24 February 2015,
5. “Autos Sped on Race Track,” The New York Times, 26 July 1900, 5; “First Automobile Tourney,” Chicago Tribune, 26 July 1900, 9.
6. “An American Auto Race,” The Automobile, November 1899, 130-132.

Racing Rules of the ACA, 1901, and the AAA, 1903

The Racing Rules of the Automobile Club of America, 1901,

and the American Automobile Club, 1903

Here are the Racing Rules, as amended, of the Automobile Club of America as of late 1901. They are taken from the August 1901 issue[1] of The Automobile, with the amendments being found in the January 1902 issue[2]. Although the amendments are listed separately, they have been incorporated into the Racing Rules to reflect the rules as they were for 1902. This the earliest – and only – complete set of ACA Racing Rules that I have managed to discover to date.

The Racing Rules of the ACA were adopted by the Racing Board of the American Automobile Association (AAA) when it was formed in April 1902 for the 1902 season. The ACA Racing Rules would then form the basis for the Racing Rules issued by the AAA Racing Board beginning with the 1903 season.

Racing Rules of the Automobile Club of America


  1. A “Recognized Meeting” is a meeting held under a license granted by the Automobile Club of America, or under the sanction of any authority whose jurisdiction is recognized by the Automobile Club of America, and which gives effect to sentences imposed by the

last named club.

  1. “Automobile” means any carriage propelled by mechanical means.
  1. A “Driver” is the occupant of an automobile in a race, who has the exclusive control thereof.
  1. The “Racing Committee” is the committee chosen by the Board of Governors of the Automobile Club of America to whom they have delegated the supervision of all races within the jurisdiction of the club.
  1. By “Organizer” is meant any association or club licensed by the Automobile Club of America to organize a race meeting.
  1. A “Nominator ” is the person in whose name an automobile is entered for a race.
  1. An “Owner” is one who owns the whole or any part of an automobile.
  1. A “Race” is a speed test sanctioned by the authorities in the first paragraph, and it is the spirit of these rules that it is won by a combination of the driver and the automobile, who must not be separated during the race.
  1. A “Walk-over” is when two automobiles, in entirely different interests, do not compete for a race.
  1. A “Month” means a calendar month, and a “Day” twenty-four hours.


  1. The program for proposed races together with all the necessary matters in relation to it, shall be sent to the Racing Committee for their approval.
  1. The program shall contain (1) the number of prizes and their value, (2) the amount of entrance fee, (3) the amount of forfeit, if any, (4) the place at which entries are received, (5) the date and hour of closing of entries, (6) the distance, (7) the manner of starting, (8) a classification of automobiles for the race in question, and (9) the complete and exact itinerary if it be a road race.
  1. After publication of the program, no modification shall be made as regards prizes or the nature of the races announced. Mention shall be made on the first page that the meeting is held under the rules of the Automobile Club of America. In a road race no change of itinerary shall be made without the consent of the Racing Committee.
  1. A copy of the program and rules shall be sent to each competitor on the acceptance of his entry.


  1. The number of starters in a track race shall be limited by the width of the track at the starting post. Between every automobile there shall be a space of at least two feet. (a) In record races and contests, automobiles shall be classified according to weight. (b) Bicycles, tricycles and tandems shall not compete against four-wheel vehicles.
  1. In case of fire or other reasons, races may be run over another course.
  1. If any one races at any unrecognized meeting, he is disqualified for all races to which these rules apply.


  1. Powers of the Governors of the Automobile Club of America. They shall, at their discretion, grant and withdraw licenses.
  1. They shall, at their discretion, veto the appointment of any racing official.
  1. They shall have charge of the forfeit list.
  1. They shall inquire into and deal with any matter relating to racing, and disqualify any person concerned in any fraudulent practice.
  1. At their discretion they may hear cases on appeal, or make any ruling or decision of their own motion or at the suggestion of another, and their decision shall be final.


  1. Whenever the word steward or stewards is used, it means steward or stewards of the meeting in question or their duly appointed deputy or deputies.
  1. The stewards for each meeting shall be appointed subject to the approval of the Racing Committee.
  1. Each steward may appoint a deputy in case of necessity or emergency.
  1. Every complaint shall be made to the stewards in writing, signed by the complainant.
  1. The stewards shall have full power to vary or alter or make any arrangements for a meeting which they deem advisable.
  1. The stewards shall have power to regulate the conduct of officials, owners and drivers for the best interests of the sport, and to this end, they may disqualify, suspend or punish at their discretion, and subject any person to a fine not exceeding $100, for conduct which they may deem injurious to the sport.
  1. The stewards may have races, where there are too many entries, run in heats. They shall arrange the heats in semi-final and final, and from their decision there can be no appeal.


  1. The officials of a meeting shall be appointed subject to the veto of the racing committee.
  1. The starter shall give all orders necessary for securing a fair start.
  1. He shall report to the stewards any conduct injurious to the sport.
  1. For establishing records on any track or road, the organizers, shall have a qualified surveyor prepare a certificate of measurement.
  1. The judges shall occupy the judge’s box at the time the automobiles pass the winning post, and their sole duty shall be to place the automobiles. They shall announce their decision immediately, which shall be final, unless an objection to the winner or the second

automobile is made and sustained. This rule shall not prevent the judges from correcting any mistakes.

  1. The winning of a race is judged by the front wheel or wheels of all automobiles.


  1. Every person racing under these rules is required to know them, and he agrees to accept, without dispute, the decision of the stewards on any question relating to the race or racing.
  1. The entries of any person may be refused at the discretion of the stewards or of the racing committee.
  1. The entries shall close at the advertised time, and no entry shall be admitted thereafter. No entry shall be accepted unless accompanied by the proper fee.
  1. Entries and declarations shall be made in writing signed by the owner. The organizers shall provide blanks for these purposes.
  1. Entries and declarations made by telegraph shall be equally binding, on condition the entry fee or forfeit immediately follows the telegram.
  1. No one shall be allowed to race under an assumed name.
  1. No sign or advertisement shall be displayed on any automobile.
  1. If the hour is not stated, entries may be mailed or telegraphed up to midnight of the day of closing.
  1. At the discretion of the proper authorities, proofs may be required as to the time of sending the entry.
  1. Competitors shall be responsible for all damages, civil or criminal.
  1. The forfeit list shall contain the names of persons from whom arrears are due.


  1. So long as the name of a person is on this list, he shall not be allowed to take part in any race, and any one taking part in such race, through error or otherwise, shall be ipso facto disqualified there from.
  1. No one shall be qualified to start in a race unless he has been announced as a starter and has complied with all the conditions of the program and is not on the forfeit list.
  1. No one shall take part in a race unless the stewards are satisfied as to his qualifications to handle his automobile.
  1. Every owner who is scheduled to start in a race and who does not do so must explain his conduct to the satisfaction of the stewards, otherwise he is subject to a penalty.


  1. Any driver not at the post, ready to start on the scheduled time, shall be fined.
  1. The position of each automobile when starting shall be determined by lot. A start may be made as follows: ( 1 ) Standing. (2) Standing and at intervals. (3) Flying. (4) Flying and at intervals.
  1. Once in the hands of the starter, no automobile shall receive any further care, except from its driver, or his assistant.[3]
  1. A start in front of the starting post is void.
  1. A starter shall have authority over all drivers necessary for securing a fair start, and any attempt to take an unfair advantage shall be punished by him, subject to appeal to the stewards.
  1. A leading automobile is entitled to any part of the course, but when there is a clear opening on each side of him, he shall not impede another automobile by crossing so as to compel the latter to slow up.


  1. Any one crossing over so as to impede his opponent, shall be disqualified, unless the one impeded was also guilty of a like intent.
  1. Any one impeding another shall be disqualified, unless the one impeded was partly in fault, or the trouble was solely caused by the fault of some other one in the race.
  1. Any one who slows up with a view to complain, or who complains frivolously, may be punished.
  1. Any intentional foul driving shall disqualify the guilty person, and also any one in league with him.
  1. If a race has been run over a wrong course or a wrong distance, or when the judges were not in the stand, the race shall be run over again.
  1. In walk-overs, the automobile shall go over the whole course, and in a long-distance race it must do so within a given time, if deemed advisable.
  1. In heat racing, any driver obliged to leave the track by reason of an accident, cannot be allowed to compete in another heat. (a) During the running of a contest or record race, the driver must have exclusive control of the steering and power of his automobile.
  1. Any one leaving the track, must start again at the point where he went off.
  1. In road races, the approach of a competing vehicle must be notified by a horn or bell.
  1. In record races, vehicles with two seats need carry only one passenger, but in all other races two passengers are compulsory.

67 Competitors must make themselves acquainted with the route, and no allowance will be made for mistakes. Moreover, if any competitor takes a shorter or easier route, other than the one prescribed, he will be disqualified. The stewards shall be the sole judges of the comparative distance or ease of the routes followed. (a) No time shall be considered official unless the time is taken by an official of a “recognized meeting,” or by one appointed subject to the approval of the racing committee.


  1. In a dead heat the prizes shall be equally divided.
  1. When the dividing owners cannot agree as to which shall have the cup or other prize which cannot be divided, the question shall be determined by lot what sum of money shall be paid by the owner who takes such cup or other indivisible prize to the other owner.
  1. On a dead heat for a match, the match is off.


  1. Every objection shall be decided by the stewards, subject to appeal to the Racing Committee.
  1. The Racing Committee may call upon any one under their jurisdiction for his assistance.
  1. Every objection must be made to the stewards in writing and signed by the one who objects.
  1. No objection may be withdrawn without leave.
  1. All costs and expenses in relation to any objection or inquiry shall be paid by such person causing the same to be made, and in such proportions as the board shall direct.

76.. A deposit of $25 may be required before any objection will be entertained, which may be forfeited if the objection is deemed frivolous or vexatious or if the objection is not sustained.

77.. An objection to the distance of the course officially designated must be made before the race.

78.. Protests shall be made as follows: ( 1 ) Protests as to classification of competitors or machines or as to validity of entry and payment of entrance fees, before the race. (2) Protest as to unfair running, errors of route, or any other irregularities on the route; within twenty-four hours after the race. (3) Protests as to fraudulent starting of a competitor in a race for which he was not qualified, eight days after the race. (4) Protests in races on the road, eight days after the finish of the races. (5) Any other protest, within twenty-four hours after the race, unless otherwise provided.

  1. The right of protest is in each competitor, but the stewards at their discretion may always interfere officially.
  1. A competitor lodging a protest must substantiate it, and the one against whom the protest is lodged has the right of being heard in opposition thereto.
  1. Any corrupt practices or conspiracies shall be punished by the stewards subject to appeal.
  1. Where no penalty is specified, the Racing Committee shall have power to impose any at their discretion, and they may modify, change or omit any penalty, disqualification or fine imposed.
  1. In any case not provided for by these rules, it shall be determined by the Racing Committee in such manner as they think best and conformable to the usages of the sport.
  1. No cognizance of bets is taken.
  1. The interpretation of these rules by the Racing Committee shall be final, except as provided for in Rule 23.
  1. These rules may be amended at the pleasure of the Board of Governors.

Amendments to the Racing Rules of the A.C. of A.

RULE 53 has been amended to read as follows: “Once in the hands of the starter, no automobile shall receive any further care, except from its driver, or his assistant.”


15a. In record races and contests, automobiles shall be classified according to weight.

15b. Bicycles, tricycles and tandems shall not compete against four-wheel vehicles.

63a. During the running of a contest or record race, the driver must have exclusive control of the steering and power of his automobile.

67a. No time shall be considered official unless the time is taken by an official of a “recognized meeting,” or by one appointed subject to the approval of the racing committee.

These amendments have been incorporated into the body of the Racing Rules as presented above.

The Racing Rules of the American Automobile Association[4]

Here are the “new” racing rules that the Racing Board of the AAA introduced for the 1903 season, which were adopted on 12 May 1903.


  1. Any person, association or club (hereafter referred to as the Promoter) desiring to hold a race or races under the rules of the American Automobile Association shall first obtain a sanction from the chairman of the racing board. No announcement of such race or races shall be made until such sanction shall have been obtained. Infraction of this rule shall perpetually disbar the offending promoter from obtaining a sanction from the racing board.
  1. The application for such sanction shall be made to the secretary of the racing board, and shall be accompanied by a fee of $50 for non-members of the American Automobile Association, or $10 for members, and shall set forth the name and address of the promoter, a schedule of the events and distances, the number and value of the prizes, the amount of the entry fees and de-tails of the course. If the event is to run on the road the board may require evidence of the permission of the proper legal authorities. The racing board may refuse a sanction without as-signing a reason for such refusal.
  1. After a sanction shall have been granted no change shall be made in any of the details required to be set forth in the application for the same.
  1. No sanction shall be granted to a promoter who shall have previously transgressed the racing rules of the American Automobile Association or permitted another to transgress them at a meeting under his management.

Entry Blanks

  1. On receipt of a sanction the promoter shall prepare an entry blank, which shall show the de-tails set forth in Rule 2: the date of the closing of entries; the address to which entries must be sent; and which shall require the entrant to supply the name of the operator, the machine he will drive, the name of the maker, the motive power, the weight, supplies included; the number of cylinders, the rated horse power, and the date of mailing the entry. It shall bear upon its face the words, “ Under the rules, and with the sanction of the racing board of the American Automobile Association.” A copy of the entry blank shall, immediately upon its issue, be forwarded to the chairman of the racing board. A copy of these rules shall be sent by the promoter to every entrant.


  1. The acceptance of the entries shall be limited to those persons who have not, since January 1, 1903, taken part in any automobile race or hill climbing test not sanctioned by the racing board of the American Automobile Association; and who have never knowingly competed with a person not eligible under the rules of the racing board; who agree, by their signatures to the entry blank, to recognize the jurisdiction of the racing board of the American Automobile Association in racing matters; and who have not been debarred from competition in events over which the American Automobile Association or the governing bodies of other nations have jurisdiction. The act of competing at an unsanctioned event, shall disqualify without further action of the racing board, and such disqualification shall remain in effect until removed by formal action of the racing board.
  1. An entry shall consist of a combination of operator and car, the latter being described at the time of the entry. No change of car shall be permitted after an entry has been filed, nor of operator without the consent of the referee.
  1. No entry shall be accepted after midnight of the day set for the closing of the entries; no entry shall be accepted unless accompanied by the entry fee and all the details required to be set forth in the entry blank. The acceptance of an entry under other conditions shall be sufficient reason for the refusal of a subsequent sanction to the offending promoter.
  1. An entry under an assumed name or failure to supply correct information in an entry blank shall result in disqualification.
  1. A person who enters and once fails to start may, after having been warned by the racing board for a subsequent offense, be suspended for any term not exceeding three months, and in the event of repetition of the offense be suspended for the rest of the season.
  1. Competitors shall be responsible for all damages – civil or criminal.


  1. Motor cars shall be classified as follows: A. (1) All weights and motive powers, no restriction as to operators. (2) All weights, supplies included, under 1,200 pounds, all motive powers, no restrictions as to operators. B. (1) All weights, steam, gasoline, electricity, other motive powers. (2) All weights, supplies included, under 1,800 pounds, steam, gasoline, electricity, other motive powers.    (3) All weights, supplies included, under 1,200 pounds, steam, gasoline, electricity, other motive powers. (4) All weights, supplies included, under 800 pounds, steam, gasoline, electricity, other motive powers.
  1. To be eligible for competition in Class B, except mile straightaways, cars must be equipped with double acting brakes, compensating and reversing devices, body and hood sufficient to cover mechanism and provide accommodation for one person alongside the operator.
  1. In all events under Class B, cars may be classified as to motive powers (steam, gasoline, electricity) as well as to weights.
  1. An automobile, motor car or car within the meaning of these rules, is a four wheeled track or road vehicle propelled by self-contained mechanical means.


  1. The principal officer at a meeting shall be the referee, whose duty it shall be to exercise general supervision over the affairs of the meeting and act as the representative of the racing board. He shall, if necessary, assign the judges, timers, umpires, clerk of the course and start to their respective positions and instruct them as to the rules. He shall receive all protests and render decisions thereon, subject to appeal to the racing board. It shall be his duty to enforce the rules and make a full report to the chairman of the racing board of transgressions thereof either by promoters, contestants or officials.
  1. There shall be three judges whose position shall be on or at the edge of the track, two at one end and one at the opposite end of the tape. The numbers of the placed cars shall be taken, one each by the three judges respectively. The decision of the judges as to the order of finishing shall be final. The judging of the cars shall be determined by the instant of contact of the tires of the front wheels with the tape.
  1. There shall be three timekeepers whose sole duty it shall be to accurately calculate, report and record the elapsed time of placed contestants. In the event of disagreement of the watches, two agreeing, their time shall be official. Shall all the watches disagree, the middle time shall be official. In a time handicap the time shall be taken from the start of the scratch contestant.
  1. There shall be a clerk of the course, with as many assistants as may be necessary. It shall be his duty to notify competitors, in due time, of the events in which they are entered; see to the arrival of the competitors at the starting point on time and to place them in their respective positions.
  1. It shall be the duty of the starter, after he has been advised by the clerk of the course that the contestants are ready, to ascertain that the timers are ready, and then give the signal to start by firing a pistol. He shall have absolute control of the competitors from the time they are re-ported by the clerk of the course until the start has taken place. In the event of a flying start, the starter alone shall have power to decide what is a fair start, and may use a flag instead of a pistol as a signal to the contestants to start, having previously warned the timers of his intention to do so.
  1. There shall be two of more umpires, whose duty shall be to take positions assigned to them by the referee, to note carefully the progress of the race and be prepared to report upon claims of unfair driving by contestants.
  1. No persons other than the officials, contestants and one assistant for each contestant shall be allowed upon the track. Contestants and attendants must leave the track as soon as the event in which they are engaged has ended. The stands are for the use of the referee and timers. No other persons shall be permitted therein.
  1. The program shall bear upon its face the words: “Under the rules and with the sanction of the racing board of the American Automobile Association” and shall set forth the distance of each race; description of prizes and their value; a copy of the rule relative to the classification of automobiles for racing; the manner of starting; a list of the names of the officials strictly in accordance with the rules relating to same; and a list of the entrants and their numbers.

The Start

  1. In the event of a match race the position of the contestants at the start shall be decided by lot. In open events the positions shall be allotted on the program, the lowest number taking the inside with at least 4 feet intervening between hubs. Entries shall be numbered by the promoter in the order of their receipt. A contestant who fails to respond promptly to the call of the clerk of the course shall forfeit his right to his position and shall take the outside. There shall be no delay at the start on account of absentees and no contestant shall be permitted to take a place in the line after contestants have been reported to the starter by the clerk of the course.
  1. The start shall be determined by the instant of contact of the tires of the front wheels with a tape laid across the track.
  1. Starts may be either standing or flying. Due notice of the method must be given on the pro-gram, but in the event of failure to state the method a standing start shall prevail.
  1. All track races shall be run with the left hand of the operator toward the rail.
  1. The referee shall have absolute power to prohibit any car which he considers unsafe, unsuitable or of improper construction to start in any event.


  1. The referee may, in case there are a larger number of entries than can be safely started in one race, divide the contestants into two or more heats of as nearly equal numbers as possible and a final.
  1. A competitor may, if he elects, carry one assistant as a passenger. After having been passed by the clerk of the course no car shall receive attention at the hands of any person other than the competitor and his assistant.

Track Rules

  1. It shall be the duty of the operator of the leading car to hold the inside as nearly as may be practicable. One contestant overtaking and passing another, must pass on the outside unless the car in front shall be so far from the inside as to render it safe to pass on the inside. After having passed to the front a competitor shall not take the inside, or cross in front of the competitor passed, unless a lead of a full length has been established, under penalty of disqualification.
  1. Intentional foul driving shall be punished by disqualification for all subsequent events at the meeting, as well as the event in which the foul practice occurs, and may be punished by the racing board by suspension not exceeding six months for the first offense and permanent suspension for a second offense.
  1. In road racing the rules of the road, which require a car to keep to the right when overtaken, shall be observed and a competitor when overtaken must allow as much room as the road permits to his competitor in which to pass.
  1. A competitor who leaves the track or road, for any cause, must, if he desires to continue the race, start from the point at which he withdrew. A competitor who leaves the track or road, or is unable to continue, in a race run in heats, shall not be allowed to compete in a subsequent heat

of the same race.

  1. The promoter or the referee may, if they consider it advisable, require a contestant to demonstrate his ability to properly handle the car he proposes to drive.
  1. No sign or advertisement of any description other than official designation shall be displayed on a car in any race, whether on road or track.
  1. In road or track races the overtaking car must give proper signal by bell or horn.

Record and Time Trials

  1. No time shall be accepted as an official record unless taken by at least three timers, and no private trial shall be recognized unless the timers shall have been approved in advance by the racing board.
  1. Claims for records must be accompanied by a surveyor’s certificate as to the correctness of the distance measured, if on the track, three feet from the pole, and if on the road, at its centre, together with evidence that the course is level.
  1. The fact that a contestant attempts to lower the record for a given distance and fails shall not prevent the acceptance of records at intermediate distances, either standing or flying start, properly attested by the timers.
  1. In case of a dead heat the event shall be run again, unless the contestants agree, between themselves, as to the disposition of the prizes.
  1. In the event of a walkover it shall be optional with the referee whether the contestant shall be required to go the whole or part of the distance. The referee may impose a reasonable time limit.


  1. Protests of every kind must be made to the referee within twenty-four hours of the finish of a race. The complainant must deposit with the referee a fee of $10, which shall be forfeited to the promoter if the protest is not sustained. A protest may be lodged only by a contestant, and once

lodged can only be withdrawn by consent of the racing board.

  1. In the event of a protest relative to classification of a car, or other matter which shall affect the right of a car to start, the referee may, unless able to render an immediate decision, allow the car to start and render his decision as soon after the event as may be possible.
  1. The making or laying of bets shall not be recognized.
  1. The racing board reserves the right to veto the appointment of any official; to select the timers in private record trials; to assign dates; to inquire into and deal with all matters relating to racing, subject to the rules; to disqualify, either temporarily or permanently, persons guilty of in-fraction of the rules; to determine who are and who are not eligible to compete; to interpret these rules and to decide any point not covered herein as it may consider advisable.
  1. These rules may be amended by the board of directors of the American Automobile Association.

[1] “Racing Rules of the Automobile Club of America,” The Automobile, August 1901, 706-712.

[2] “Amendments to the Racing Rules of the A.C. of A.,” The Automobile, January 1902, 166.

[3] This originally read before being replaced: “Once in the hands of the starter, no automobile shall receive any further care except from its driver.”

[4] “New Racing Rules of A.A.A.”, The Horseless Age, 20 May 1903, 611-613; “A.A.A. Adopts New Racing Rules,” Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal, June 1903, 26.

1902: Images from Brighton Beach, Cleveland, Detroit, and Eagle Rock

As I continue to develop the article on 1902, here are several images from race meetings at Brighton Beach in August, Cleveland in September, Detroit in October, and Eagle Rock in November, that I found and worked with for possible use.


1902: Images for Posssible Use in an Article

As I develop the outline for an article that will cover American automobile racing during the 1902 season, I am considering the images that I might use in that article.

The incident on Staten Island on 31 May is, of course, one of the major focal points that needs to addressed. The Baker Torpedo is an important part of the Staten Island speed trials, so I want to include several images of the ill-fated electric vehicle.


This image of the Torpedo appeared in the automotive journal, Motor World. Although easily the best of the images that I found for the Torpedo, it needs a bit of cleaning up if I am going to use it in the article.


This is the image that I will probably use in the article.

I also wish to provide a schematic drawing of the Torpedo and the Motor World article also, fortuitously, provided one:


However, I want to provide a clearer idea of the location of the batteries powering the Torpedo while also giving a better contrast as to the internal configuration of the vehicle:


I was also looking for an image of a machine on a track and found this image of Harry Harkness driving his Simplex-Mercedes at the Grosse Pointe race meeting:


However, it is a big image with a small car…


I like this image much better and thought that I might wish to consider making it look similar to many of the images that one finds in the early American automotive journals:


At this point, I think that I now have at least three images that I will use in the article.

New York, 1902: Some Images from Staten Island

The broad, general area that I have come to focus upon as an automotive competition historian is the first quarter-century of automobile racing in the United States, the period covering the years from 1895 to the end of the 1920 season. This is when the sport was in its formative stages and developing not only the men and machines but the necessary infrastructure for conducting racing. It was also a time when automotive contests were held in places that might seem unusual or even odd today. A century later, few New Yorkers could imagine that their city was once a major hub for American automobile racing during the dawning years of the 20th Century.

The day following Decoration Day in 1902, Staten Island was the site of speed runs sanctioned by the Automobile Club of America, which had just helped form the American Automobile Association at a meeting held in Chicago in early March. The speed runs were held on public roads, those portions of Southfield Boulevard that ran through Grant City on Staten Island. Both the flying kilometer and flying mile were the distances measured during the speed trials. The course used can be seen below:


The course map is from The Horseless Age, 28 May 1902, page 662.

I was interested in seeing what images I could find from this event as well as one held in August at Brighton Beach. Once I found the images, I wanted to see what I could do to adapt them for use in a possible article on these races. This posting will focus on Staten Island with a later one on the Brighton Beach meeting.

Here is a photograph of Percy Owen, on his 15-horsepower Winton, the winner of the 1,000 to 2,000 pound class for gasoline cars, that appeared in the New-York Daily Tribune on 1 June 1902, page 4:


Here is the same image after a few simple changes:


The speed trials on Staten Island were halted when the Baker Torpedo lost control and plunged into a crowd of spectators not far from the end of the timed run area. Two of the spectators died either at the scene or after being evacuated and a third died roughly six weeks later; a half-dozen other spectators suffered injuries severe enough to require hospitalization.The two in the Torpedo suffered only minor injuries, The crash led the ACA to pass resolutions barring the club from conducting speed contests, to include road races, on public roads.

Here is the Baker Torpedo from the front page of the New-York Tribune for 1 June 1902, showing the Torpedo prior to its speed run and then the aftermath of the crash:


I split the two images:


This image also appeared in the Chicago Daily Tribune (3 June 1902, page 4) and The San Francisco Call (7 June 1902, page 6).


The 2 June 1902 edition of the Boston Globe (page 7) had an image of the Torpedo that was claimed to be taken just seconds prior to the crash:


Here is the image after a few changes:


I am beginning to grasp the ways that a few simple modifications to an image can help an image become easier to literally be seen. Those images can then be used as part of an article to literally illustrate the topic being discussed. Given the often poor quality of the images that one finds, these modifications often seem necessary to make them useable or even identifiable in some cases.

Next, I will look at images I found for the August event at Brighton Beach.