July 2, 2015

The Whacky 1910 Prescott to Phoenix Automobile Race


They were racing for the premiere awarding of the Arizona Gazette Cup in a contest organized by the Prescott Auto Club.

Nineteen cars would attempt the trip.  When it was all over, only one was able to drive back to Prescott.(*1)


The race started in front of the Prescott National Bank on Cortez St.  With a healthy crowd (for a 6:30 am start,) the trip was to follow the old stage route: Prescott-- Mayer-- Humboldt-- Cordes-- Black Canyon-- Goddard-- New River-- to Phoenix ending on West Adams St. in front of the Arizona Gazette Newspaper. (*2)

The rules were fairly simple:
Participants had to be Yavapai County residents.
Each car had to run the entire race under its own power.
And: "When any car in the race approaches within 100 feet of the one ahead and desires to pass, and signals this desire by two honks, the car in front must turn to the right giving half the road and allow it to pass, the passing car must pass to the left." (*2)

Here is Your Line-up of Participating Autos:






5 entrants were Buicks













3 were Fords











2 were Cadillacs









2 more were "Tourists"






And one each:
The "Reo"
The "Premier"
The "Stearns"
The "Regal"



All of the automobiles had at least one passenger.  A foresighted few brought along a "Mechanician".  In spite of the known dangers, one man brought his family of five. (*3)





The "Stoddard Dayton"
The "Overland"














The most charming entrant was the one and only lady driver,  Mrs. HT Southworth, who was going to drive her 2 year-old, 20 horsepower Ford. (*2)  (Cars with less horsepower were given handicaps.)

TG Norris in a Tourist and HD Aitken in a Cadillac had a side bet, the loser providing a banquet for all the people who make the trip. Norris was to start before Aitken and suggested that once he got started, he "never expects to see him again until the celebration of the festivities."  For Aitken's part, he said that "he will not take any mud from his...competitor."(*3)

Each auto would start, one at a time, with a 5 minute interval. The race was commenced and the only thing faster than the cars were the mounting mechanical malfunctions (*4):

The Imperial was the first casualty.  Hitting an extreme road hazard, the driver "broke a knuckle on the wheel (and) his escape from serious injury was considered marvelous." He turned back and went home.

The next to have trouble was the Reo.  It "went out of commission due to some mechanical derangement."  But after a delay lasting to 3pm, it was "on the road again passing Humboldt at a rapid clip."

TG Norris, the side-bettor in his Tourist, had trouble with the steering, but was able to make the repair relatively quickly and charged on.

ALSO ENJOY: An 1871 Journey to Prescott was Long, Difficult, Dangerous and Expensive

The Stearns auto was a favorite to win the race and was doing well, but at the point of the race near "Blue Bell Siding" it struck a rut in the road and broke its axle.

One of the Cadillacs had a "narrow escape from a tragic fate" when it struck a large pothole at the Arizona Canal and lost its tonneau (the removable cabin roof).  The women in the car were violently thrown into the air, but fortunately landed back inside the vehicle.  (After finishing the race, they went back to pick up the lost wreckage.)

One of the Buicks had the most annoying time; suffering no less than 17 tire punctures along the way.

Although the roads were thought to be in fairly good condition going into the race, the exact opposite was true.  "From (Cordes) to Phoenix all semblance of a road had passed into a myth and after the many cars had passed over it, the mechanical autopsy held in Phoenix was the best evidence that it had seen better days." (*1)

As of Noon the next day, 3 cars: the Reo; the Overland; and one late entry; did not arrive in Phoenix and "several relief parties (had) been sent out to hunt for the derelicts." (*4)

The matter of the side-bet between Norris and Aitkens turned frightful for a time as Aitkens had not shown up in Phoenix.  His panicked employer, the Bashford-Birmister Co. asked that "no expense be spared" to locate the company's secretary. (*5)

It took Mr. Aitken over 24 hours to make it to Phoenix.  He said "that the greater part of Sunday night was passed using the cushion as a headrest which was the only soothing balm of this memorial trip." (*1)

Losing the bet, Aitken was supposed to pay for a banquet for the drivers and passengers of the race (65 people).  However, Norris magnanimously paid for half. (*5)

All the cars, with the exception of the Stoddard-Dayton, "passed through a series of distressing accidents," and except for this one car, all the rest would be "sent back by train." (*1)

In spite of one suffering 17 flats, all 5 of the Buicks finished as well as 2 out of 3 of the Fords.  The only other cars that were able to complete the race were one Tourist and the Stoddard Dayton (*4)

Al Weber broke the all-time record for the trip (5:40) in his 40 horsepower Buick and would have won the trophy except he left three minutes late from his starting time.

Instead, the only lady driver in the race, Mrs. HT Southworth WON THE CUP!  Although given a 55 minute handicap (since her Ford was only 20 horsepower,) she still made the 110-mile trip in a remarkable 6:33.

Weber's 3 minute late start cost him the cup by one minute! Although he recorded the fastest time to date, he lost the trophy....

And who said women take longer than men to get ready?

The automobiles that DID finish in order of their time:
1. Buick 40hp 5:40
2. Ford 20hp 6:33
3. Buick 40hp 7:19
4. Tourist 2 cylinder 7:32
5. Buick 20hp 7:34
6. Stoddard Dayton 7:44
7. Ford 20hp 8:42.5
8. Buick 2 cylinder 8:43
9. Buick 2 cylinder 8:53



To read another enjoyable story about early cars in Prescott, and to find out about Tourist Tips, Please click on the following:


Horses, Autos & Primitive Traffic Laws



SOURCES:
(*1) Arizona Journal Miner; 11/10/1910 page 4 col. 1
(*2) Ibid, 11/3/1910 page 3 col. 2
(*3) Ibid, 11/6/1910 page 5 col. 3
(*4) Ibid, 11/8/1910 page 4 col. 4
(*5) Ibid, 11/9/1910 page 5 col. 1

#PrescottAZHistory


ALSO BY Drew Desmond: