Brighton Beach May 1910

These articles in the attachments below appeared in the Indianapolis Star and Indianapolis Sun from May 13 through 18, 1910. The story is about another edition of the 24-hour "grinder" races of the day at the sandy oval of Brighton Beach in New York. The event was sanctioned by the American Automobile Association (AAA), which, due to accidents in such contests, had introduced a requirement for a medical examination for drivers prior to competition. In addition to the AAA, one of the attached articles mentions the Motor Racing Association (MRA) which I believe from other readings was a group of investors endeavoring to keep the beleaguered facility open. The track operations had fallen on hard times due to New York State gaming laws restricting gambling.
Attachment Brighton051310 is a pre-race view that sets the scene. The local angle for Indianapolis is played up as the Marion team with their "Bobcat" racer and the Cole entry for the highly respected "Farmer" Bill Endicott are called out. The entry of Lewis Strang (his first name is misspelled as "Louis") as a Marion driver is of particular interest as weeks earlier the Star ran a story about the company recruiting him as race team "captain." Strang was having marital trouble at the time and I believe that sometime after this race he put the Marion opportunity aside to try to patch things up with his wife. Strang was to share the driving duties with Gil Andersen. Their car was described as gray in color with a small, 255 cubic inch engine pushing its 1,870 pounds. 
Apparently, the Marion had recently been driven at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway by its designer, Harry Stutz. It reportedly completed 100 miles in 86 minutes. Here's an interesting note: the Marion team expected to cover 1,000 to 1,500 miles in the 24-hour grind. During this time they expected to use about 60 gallons of oil and 75 gallons of gasoline. The cars of the period were notorious for leaking and burning oil. 
As for Endicott and the Cole entry it was reported to be the same machine he drove to victory at Atlanta speedway just days earlier. Interestingly his mechanic is reported to be Louis Edwards who was also expected to do stints as a driver. This makes you wonder when the man was supposed to sleep. Strang and Andersen were reportedly planning to do two hour stints before relieving one another throughout the contest.
In attachment BrightonSun051310 find an article the Indianapolis Sun also published on May 13. The article starts with a callout box listing the drivers and cars entered. The Sun's list is the same as the Star's listed below but also includes the back-up drivers to the star driver in each car. I list those below with an asterisk. Note that the article reports that at the time the 24 hour distance record was 1,196 miles and insiders predicted there would be a new record of 1,200 or more miles.
This article says the race was to start at 8 pm that evening and estimates that manufacturers had invested $100,000 in preparing their entries. Hospital arrangements are noted to highlight the sense of responsibility of the organizers. The article also reports that great attention had been given to lighting the track for night racing. Some of the drivers had practiced during the day, starting at dawn. The Marion and Cole teams of Indianapolis are cited as favorites.
Attachment BrightonDeath051410 reports that tragedy struck early in the contest as this update after five hours reveals. The big news was that Marion riding mechanic William F. Bradley was fatally injured in an accident while Andersen was driving. Andersen was miraculously unhurt.
The other Indianapolis-built entry, the Cole, also suffered an accident and badly damaged the machine. Both Endicott and his riding mechanic escaped injury. The excitement continued as a third accident occurred at 2 o'clock AM when Buick driver George Dewitt spun into the fencing. His riding mechanic, referred to as "Jack Towers" was apparently injured seriously and the report speculated that he would die. I believe this to be Jack Tower who would go on to drive in the Indianapolis 500. Apparently he used his name both with and without an "s" as the final letter.
The article provides a useful list of the competitors, but it only lists one driver. My assumption is that this may have been the man that started the race or was perceived to be the senior man on the team. Here's the list  provided:

  1. Ralph Mulford and Cyrus Patschke (Stearns)
  2. Frank Dearborn and Ray Howard (Stearns)
  3. Louis Chevrolet and Arthur Chevrolet (Buick)
  4. Bob Burman and George Dewitt (Buick)
  5. Lewis Strang and J. Anderson (Marion)
  6. Bill Endicott and L. Edmonds (Cole)
  7. Montague Roberts and Stanley Martin (Houpt-Rockwell)
  8. Charles Basle (Simplex)
  9. E.H. Parker and Ralph DePalma (Fiat)
  10. George Mack and Thomas McMahon (Selden)
  11. Louis Disbrow and Wally Owen (Rainer)
  12. Charles Lund and W.C. Spinney (Croxton-Keeton)

At the time the story was filed the Buicks were dominating. Although it is not clear the report seems to indicate that Chevrolet led with Burman second.  Mulford - again this is not entirely clear in the article - was probably running third. Officials had set up an electric timing system with a wire hanging over the track. The report indicates the wire drooped as the race wore on and the contest had to halted for 12 minutes during the midnight hour to effect repairs. Officials were concerned the drivers' heads would actually get caught by the sagging wire.
Attachment BrightonSun051410 contains an article from the May 14 Indianapolis Sun. This article is essentially an interview with Will Brown, a top executive at the Overland-Marion Automobile Company. Brown focuses on the future of auto racing and its role in developing the automobile as a consumer product. He notes that Indianapolis-built cars were the leaders in motorsports. This reflected a strategy shared by most car makers in Indianapolis as opposed to those in the leading car production city, Detroit. Indianapolis factories  - in general - focused on performance while Detroit companies focused on production.
Clearly, Brown saw the possibility of auto racing falling out of favor and disappearing. This may have had something to do with the constant criticism of the industry press especially with regard to racing on horse tracks. Check out some quotes from Brown that reveal his views:

  • "Perhaps one of the largest question marks in the automobile future is how long will the racing game last? This question was asked many years ago and one man of my personal acquaintance resigned as manager of Barney Oldfield because he figured the sap was all gone out of the plum. Now he is back into the game and regrets the loss of several years' proftis." (I have to wonder if Brown was referring to Ernie Moross hired as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway director of contests in 1909.)
  • "Just now conditions seem to indicate that, but for Indianapolis made cars, racing would be in a sorry shape. This was shown at the Atlanta events."
  • "If the bottom drops out of racing, as some pessimists predict, it will not injure us in the least, because the Marion cars we are now racing are stock cars pur and simple. They are exactly the same car any man buys."
  • "Racing...shows us wherein they are strong and wherein they need improvement. It teaches the engineer who designs them intimate knowledge of his craft when seen under continued stress and strain. This is the reason we race. The car improves and the buyer profits."
  • "I believe in racing as long as it is conducted on a clean basis for benefit of buyer and builder."

The Indianapolis Star article found in attachment Brighton051510 reports on the race finish. The Simplex team, its entry driven by Basle and Al Poole, won the race. They completed the 24-hour battle with 1,145 miles accumulated. Second was Mulford in the Stearns while Ralph DePalma was driving the Fiat in third at the event's conclusion. Ten of twelve cars were running at the end, including the Indianapolis-built Marion and Cole entries that had been wrecked in the early going. Marion riding mechanic William F. Bradley was reported killed in the Marion accident when Hubert Anderson - the second driver behind Strang on the team - was driving. The accident triggered a public outcry against auto racing which probably contributed to greater attention to safety by organizers.
The two cars absent at the checkered flag were the second Stearns car and the Houpt-Rockwell which fell by the wayside 21 hours into the show. 
The winning effort was 26 miles off the record for the time. Rain during the second 12 hours reportedly slowed his pace from record-setting range. The victorious team had taken the lead at the race's mid-point. Four cars, the two Buicks, the second Stearns car and the Fiat had been on pace for a new record after the first hour.
Chevrolet was leading a 5 o'clock AM but was thwarted by a broken crankshaft. Still, his team repaired the machine and he was able to continue albeit out of contention for victory. The injuries to Jack Tower (Buick riding mechanic) were described as "a broken leg and internal injuries," but no further speculation on his chances for survival. Note, too, that the name of Endicott's riding mechanic is reported as John McGruder.

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BrightonSun051310.pdf184.28 KB
BrightonDeath051410.pdf1.17 MB
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