The Indiana Leg - NY to Paris

The articles in the attachments below come from the Indianapolis Star from February 16 through 26 1908. The topic is the New York to Paris auto race, also known as "The Great Race." An ambitious undertaking in 1908 it pitted automobiles from France, Germany, Italy and the United States against each other in a grueling struggle - especially when you consider the state of roads (in many cases nonexistent) and the primitive nature of the sub-100 horsepower, wooden wheel cars of the day. Six cars with teams representing the nations (they are listed in attachment 1908GreatRace021608) left New York city to the cheers of some 250,000 people. In the end the American entry, the Thomas, would prevail in somewhat of an upset as European marques were generally seen as technologically superior to American. For the Thomas Motor Company the victory was their bright, shining moment as the corporation would fail and slip into history 10 years hence.

 

These articles largely tell the story of how the contestants battled through the craggy roads of Indiana which proved to be quite challenging due to an exceptional Hoosier February snow storm. They entered the state after passing through Toledo, Ohio (attachment 1908GreatRace021908) and snow drifts became increasingly treacherous as they headed north to Chicago. The teams were forced to rely on horses to pull through massive drifts of 8 to 10 feet high (attachment 1908GreatRace022108) that covered otherwise difficult roads. Attachment 1908GreatRace022208 reports on the portion of the passage where the competitiors were particularly hard hit by snow drifts. Attachment 1908GreatRace022608 reports of the entries arriving at Chicago. Prior to the arrival an interesting dispute erupted (attachment 1908GreatRace022408) when the executive of an interurban electric line allowed Montague Roberts, the driver of the American Thomas, to drive upon the train's right-of-way tracks while refusing the European competitors the same opportunity. The fact that he would prefer light rail tracks over the road says a lot about how badly obstructed the roads were.