Friday, April 6, 2018

Brave New Century . . . a Century Ago

Recently, Chief Ed Moore sent me two pictures from the Photo by Gibson collection, asking if I could confirm that they had been taken in Hudson. That was easily done. Central House, which had been the subject of a Gossips post just a few months ago, appears in both pictures, the tower of the First Reformed Church, which once stood on Warren Street just below Fifth, is visible in the first picture, and the notation on the second picture mentions "Baker Block," the name of the four houses with the memorable two-story oriels just down from City Hall.
The self-assigned challenge for me, of course, was to find out more about the event being documented, and I did that this morning, locating news coverage of the automobile contest in the Hudson Daily Register for Tuesday, September 10, 1901. What follows is a transcription of most of that article.

It was a twentieth century sight which greeted Hudsonians when the leaders of the big automobile endurance race began to arrive in town this morning, and fully a thousand people were lined along Warren street by The Central, which was headquarters.
There were carriages big and small of all kinds of shapes and styles and colors, from the big red and yellow two-seater, to the little black bicycle of one and three-quarter horse power. In them, or moving about them, were the chauffeurs and their friends, in all manner of astonishing costumes. Some wore leather coats, caps, knickers and leggins; some wore linen dusters, some had on outing shirts and others wore ulsters. One man was attired in a full suit of buckskin. The big-peaked automobile cap was the crowning feature and a majority of them wore great ugly goggles, that in a number of cases, half masked the face.
It was a living breathing, snorting, sputtling and turbulent sort of show, very different from those seen in the big halls where the vehicles are uncharged and "dead," but highly polished and standing about as studies in still life. It had power to cause a thrill. Above all it suggested the practical. The machines sizzled and sung while they stood, as if impatient to be off, and the dirty gasolene and condensed steam and oil dripped from their bodies, as foam does from a horse's flanks. They were not out for show, but for business. They were going to attempt a cross-country trip of 464 miles, and they were rigged out for the task. Each vehicle was burdened with various kinds of luggage and personal necessities and many of them carried extra tires that hung conspicuously in front, behind or underneath.
In all the bustle of this moving picture, three women sat complacent on the seats of two machines and reviewed life smilingly. They were [Mrs.] H. K. Browning and Miss Simmons on H. K. Browning's dos-a-dos and Mrs. A. L. Riker on her husband's racing car. They propose to go to Buffalo if they can stand the ordeal.
The run, while not being a new idea, is on a much larger scale, in point of distance, than anything before attempted and the number of participants as well as the high grade of the machines stamp it as the greatest motor-car event ever seen on this side of the ocean. It is not a race, but a test of the ability of the vehicles to make good average time and the basis of average time. Anything in excess of a fifteen-mile-an-hour average between checking points will not be recognized, nor will anything under an average of eight miles an hour. Buffalo is to be reached on Saturday night. . . .
The first machine to reach Hudson was the red monster owned by David Wolfe Bishop, a big gasolene French racer capable of going forty miles an hour. Mr. Bishop is the millionaire arrested in New York lately for his fast running with this machine. After his arrival the following machines came along as follows: Gasolene speed car, B. B. MacGregor and Albert C. Bostwick; gasoline motor, J. W. Packard; the 12-horse power French car of A. R. Shattuck, the handsomest big vehicle in line; the hydro car of M. H. Winters; steam carriage of F. Holley; gas mobile, C. Meyers and R. Wuloughby; steam wagon of S. D. Waldron; gasoline speed car, Alex Dow and James L. Stewart; gasoline carriage, Larry Burhens; steam, C. S. Southwark and A. W. Foote. Following these the rest came straggling along.
John Jacob Astor was one of the early arrivals. A tall, slim man with a greenish suit, with a gasoline phaeton of 9 horse power.
The youngest chauffeur in the party was F. E. Lewis, 2d. of Tarrytown. Lewis is only sixteen, and he guides his own machine, a little beauty of the Stanhope type.
It was a few minutes before 10 when the first "auto" arrived. The start from Poughkeepsie having been made at 8. The best run was made by Bishop who covered the distance of 43 miles with his 30-horse power racer in one hour and forty-eight minutes--a speed of 24 miles an hour. His machine is a $10,000 one.
Seventy-one left Poughkeepsie, and 65 were at Hudson at 2 o'clock. The remaining six had been "laid up for repairs."
A couple of the horseless vehicles were crippled just outside the city. At Blue Stores A. J. Hammond and Windson White lost control of their machine, and it backed up with terrific force and struck a barn. One of them would have been mangled but for his falling out between the machine and the barn.
One of the Knox three-wheeled runabouts upset in a ditch about six miles above Poughkeepsie, but was soon righted.
The other three wheeler in line--a Duryea--was second until within twelve miles of Hudson, when a hot-box [sic], which delayed the travelers.
The starting gear of the phaeton of D. Planhark broke and the machine was badly wrecked the control being lost while the wagon dashed down hill. The occupants were injured and received medical attention.
Just after starting a vehicle belonging to K. A. Skinner broke down near the fair grounds, a wheel giving away. . . . 
After dining at The Central the vehicles were started for Albany at 1 o'clock in the order in which they reached here. . . .
The riders might have been enjoying themselves, but they were a begrimed and dusty lot as they drew up in front of the "controls". . . .
It's interesting to see this automobile endurance race in the context of other things that were happening in September 1901. The race was to end in Buffalo, where the Pan-American Exposition was going on and where, only a few days before, on Friday, September 6, President William McKinley had been shot by the anarchist Leon Czolgosz. The day the automobiles were to arrive in Buffalo--Saturday, September 14--was the day McKinley died of gangrene caused by the gunshot wounds.  

The Photo by Gibson collection includes two more pictures of the event.
The first shows the south side of Warren Street just a little east of the Central House, which appears at the far right. The two buildings in the picture that survive are 513 and 511 Warren Street. The second picture, taken from "Whitbecks studio," shows, in the background at left, a bit of the former Universalist Church and the building where Nolita is now located. In 1901, Volkert Whitbeck was the proprietor of Forshew's Photograph Gallery at 441 Warren Street, now TK Home & Garden.


  1. beautiful read . thank you for finding this !

  2. First it is important that Mr. Bohnsack be recognized as the present owner of the Howard Gibson collection.
    Second, that Mr. Bohnsack shares the pictures on his website, photobygibson. The fact that he shares his photos with all is amazing. Most people, etc. will not. Except of course Mr. Chipkowski.
    I'm puzzled by the above photos and others posted of the Central House.
    Some photos show two story buildings east of Central House while others show three story.
    Another area on Warren, actually on the same block but on the North side, show two story buildings on each side of the Farmer's Bank, while others depict three storied buildings.
    The bank was destroyed by fire many years ago.
    The last photo shown above has two sets of trolley tracks. The purpose was to allow East and West bound trolley cars to pass midway.
    The automobile event must have been spectacular. But, sad to say, any similar event would not be allowed on Warren in today's world.

  3. Horse, rail and auto all in one frame... And a RR "frog" intersection, which means trolleys alternated sides of the street as they ran up and down Warren.