The photographic story of the The Great New York to Paris Auto Race of 1908

In the early 20th century, the automobile was an infant technology, with none of the infrastructure we consider today: road maps, traffic signals, sidewalks, gas stations, fast food, parking lots, expressways or motels.

Most people in the world had never seen a car in person. What, then, could be more fun under such punishing conditions than the first 'automobile race around the world'?

In the summer of 1907, the Paris newspaper Le Matin and the New York Times announced "The Great Race: New York to Paris by Automobile". The Prize: A 1,400-pound trophy and proving that it can be done.

The race started in Times Square on February 12, 1908. Six cars representing four countries were on the starting line for what would become a 169-day test (the longest motorsport event ever held, in terms of time taken to build it).

Germany, France, Italy and the United States participated, with a Protoss representing Germany, a Zust representing Italy, three cars representing France (De Dion-Bouton, Motobloc and Cesare-Naudin). ) and a Thomas Flyer representing the United States.

Legend has it that the Thomas Flyer entered the race at the insistence of President Theodore Roosevelt, who hated the prospect of European automobiles crossing the country without being challenged by the Americans.

Better-established companies such as Pierce-Arrow of Buffalo declined to enter. But the Thomas Automobile Company, also of Buffalo, pulled one of its production models out of their factory at the last minute and entered the race. Buffalo's own George Schuster was the driver and chief mechanic.

The proposed route was across the United States, through areas with very few improved roads, and then north to Alaska (by boat) and then (hopefully) across the frozen Bering Strait into Siberia. Then through Siberia to Moscow and then to Paris. )

Thomas Flyer reached San Francisco in 41 days, 8 hours and 15 minutes - the first crossing of the United States by car in winter.

The car was then shipped to Seattle and Valdez, Alaska. As the Americans moved north, the line of followers stretched from California to Iowa.

Zust was in Omaha, De Dion in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Moto Block in Maple Park, Illinois, and Protoss A in Geneva, Illinois. Another French car suffering mechanical problems was forced to be abandoned.

Thomas' crew found the conditions in Alaska impossible and returned to Seattle. The race was rerouted across the Pacific by steamer to Japan, where the Americans made their way into the Sea of ​​Japan.

Then it began to cross Vladivostok, Siberia, the continents of Asia and Europe by ship. Only three competitors made it past Vladivostok: Protos (Germany), Zust (Italian) and Flyer (American).

The wetlands of Siberia and Manchuria made progress difficult during the spring. At many points, forward speed was often measured in feet rather than miles per hour.

Eventually, as Europe arrived, roads improved and Thomas reached Paris on July 30, 1908, to win, covering a distance of about 16,700 km. The Germans, driven by Hans Köppen, arrived in Paris four days earlier, but were punished for a total of 30 days for not traveling to Japan and shipping the Protoss part of the way by railcar.

This took the Americans to 26 days with George Schuster (the only American to cover the entire distance from New York to Paris) winning 26 days (still the largest winning margin of any motorsport event so far). The Italians arrived later in September 1908.

Schuster enjoys the Flyer's triumphant return to Times Square on August 17, 1908. After the death of accolades and parties, he returned to his job at the Thomas factory, where he was promised employment as long as the company was in business.

Five years later, the Thomas company collapsed, and all of its goods were auctioned off. Lot number 1829 was listed as the "Famous New York to Paris Racer". The winner Thomas Flyer is displayed with the trophy at the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada.

The race was of international interest with daily front page coverage by The New York Times (with Paris newspaper Le Matin a sponsor of the race).

The importance of the event extended far beyond the race: it established the reliability of the automobile as a reliable means of transportation. In addition, it called for the construction of better roads in many parts of the world.

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.