Lowell Trophy & Race Carnival 1909

These articles concern one of the biggest auto racing events of 1909, the Lowell, Massachusetts road races and time trials. This was a speed festival as some of the articles reference an associated Federation of American Motorcyclists (FAM) race meet as well as auto time trials and shorter auto races for different classifications of the car. The auto races were organized by the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the Lowell Automobile Club.
Attachment Lowell082909 was originally published in the August 29, 1909, Indianapolis Star. It contains three brief updates on preparations coming up for the Lowell events, especially the main contest, a 318-mile road race for the Lowell Trophy planned for September 8. These events were scheduled to occur over nearly a week's period of time from September 5 to September 11, 1909.
The first of these three concise articles in the attachment focuses on work being done to improve the safety of a hairpin turn of what was referred to as the "Merrimac Valley Course." The turn was flagged as dangerous by AAA officials due to an accident that seriously injured Isotta driver Al Poole during practice for the 1908 event.
The work done on the hairpin turn involved broadening it by 12 feet to allow for a wider turning radius and more room for cars to run together. The article assured readers that the turn would still be "one of the sensational points on the course." Another spot on the course known as "the dip" which was midway on the backstretch was also altered.
The dip was actually a spot where a granite ledge abruptly ended and the road, such as it was, plunged into a creek. The granite ledge was "blasted," the article reports, but what exactly that meant (dynamite?) is not explained.
The article reports that six motorcycle events were planned for September 10 as part of an overall "automobile carnival." What is a little confusing is that only two events are subsequently listed in the article as noted below:

  • Flying mile trials for the "Speed King Trophy."
  • Two laps (21.2 miles) competitions for private owners with machines of 55 cubic inches without auxiliary exhaust ports. Prizes for first, second and third were planned.

The second article in the same attachment reported that the Apperson Company from Kokomo, Indiana would enter the Lowell Trophy. Veteran driver Herb Lytle was named to one of the cars. Joe Bates was also named as his riding mechanic. Note that the name of his riding mechanic reported at the first auto race meet at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was Joe Bitts.
The third and final item in the attachment discusses the plans of Buick star driver Lewis Strang. The article describes a new Buick racer weighing less than 2,000 pounds with eight cylinders. Other features: no transmission (direct drive); two carburetors and 28-inch wheels with a tire lug between each spoke. His teammates Louis Chevrolet, Arthur Chevrolet, Bob Burman and George DeWitt were also listed as entries, as was Ralph DePalma in this Fiat Cyclone.
Attachment Lowell090309 is a very small item from the September 3, 1909 Indianapolis Star noting something that could have been significant to the race. Apparently, a woman by the name of Ocea A. Shaw who was a citizen of Lowell had filed with the Massachusetts Superior Court for an injunction to stop the race. The link in Mrs. Shaw's name above provides an article with more detail, but the attached gets to the essence of the issue. Shaw obviously wasn't a fan of racing and argued that commandeering public roads was unconstitutional.
The attached Indianapolis News article LowellNews090409 is a brief report on practice for the event. The most interesting note is that apparently Barney Oldfield was assisted with his Benz racer by a Count von Ganeth. Exactly what this German Count did is not explained.
Apparently, there were two incidents during practice. The first mentioned is that the Chalmers-Detroit of Frank Gelnaw locked wheels with Fred Belcher's Knox. The outcome is not described and because of that, we can assume the encounter had insignificant consequences. The other incident involved the Maxwell of William Sickenger. Apparently Sickenger got into the turn at the intersection of Varnum and Dunbar Avenues too hot and rolled his Maxwell onto the grounds of a property known as "Cummings Farm." Fortunately, neither driver or car was hurt seriously.
Attachment Lowell090509 expands on the note mentioned above about Herb Lytle and his Apperson entry. The article, published in the September 5, 1909, Indianapolis Star, notes that Apperson was the sole Hoosier state manufacturer entered, a fact worth noting given that nearly 40 cars were reportedly gathered for competition.
The article is useful in presenting the array events that were scheduled. First called out are three events:

  • A "light" stock car race with an expected 24 entries.
  • A one mile straightaway time trial for purpose-built racers on September 7.
  • The main event, the "heavy" car race on September 8 with 15 entries.

The main event, the Lowell Trophy, was for stock chassis with engines of 451 to 600 cubic inches cylinder displacement. The minimum weight was 2,400 pounds. The distance for the race was 30 laps around the 10.6-mile circuit for a total of 318 miles. The race was won by George Robertson. The entry list, with car numbers, marques and driver names appears below:

There were three classes listed for the light car race - 2, 3 and 4.
Class 2 for the Vesper Club Trophy for to stock chassis with engines of 301 to 350 cubic inches and a minimum weight of 2,100 pounds. Bob Burman was destined to win this race. The race was for 20 laps or 212 miles. The entries were:

The Class 3 race was for the Yorick Club Trophy for stock chassis with engines of 231 to 300 cubic inches displacement. (Note that the Yorick Club was an elite social club founded as the "Highland Club" in February 1882). The cars had a minimum weight of 1,800 pounds and the race distance was 15 laps or 159 miles. The entries were:

The Merrimac Valley Trophy was open to stock chassis with 161 to 220 cubic inch engines. The cars' minimum weight was 1,500 pounds and the race was 12 laps or 125.2 miles. This race was won by William "Billy" Knipper. The entries were:

The article with attachment name LowellNews090809 is also from the Indianapolis News, an evening paper that went to press prior to the conclusion of the race. Their report, published September 8, 1909, had eventual winner George Robertson in the lead with 64 miles remaining of the 318-miles. The paper went to press before the conclusion of the race.
Interestingly, eventual winner Robertson and his Simplex were not listed among the entries in the Star's pre-race coverage reviewed above. There were 16 cars in all compared with 15 entries mentioned in the September 5 article. The cars in the attachment are listed in their starting order as organized by Race Starter Fred J. Wagner. The previous article ordered them by car number.
Reconciling the actual starters with the earlier entry list presents discrepancies. Among those not listed earlier that did compete were Robert Drach who started first in the American Motor Car Company machine. Charles Basle, who was last away, drove the Renault entry instead of H.A. de Vaux as listed earlier. B.W. Shaw competed for Stoddard-Dayton and he was not part of the preliminary entry list either. Al Denison was listed earlier as a Knox but does not appear among the starters while Joseph Downey and Fred Shaw are in the mix along with the previously announced Fred Belcher. Earlier one of the three Knox entries had "Driver Unknown" beside the entry.
Among the other entries that had not yet announced drivers the following men slipped behind the wheel: Harry Cobe (Lozier) and Ed Parker for Fiat. Lewis Strang, listed earlier, bent an axle approaching the starting line and suffered a tremendous delay to enter the race long after others had started. Louis Chevrolet led early but as the race wore on Robertson found himself in front. With 64 miles to go Robertson led with Grant second and DePalma third.
The starting order was reported to be:

  • Robert Drach, American
  • Hugh Hughes, Allen-Kingston
  • Bob Burman, Buick
  • Harry Grant, ALCO
  • Al J. Poole, Isotta-Fraschini
  • Edward H. Parker, Fiat
  • Fred Belcher, Knox
  • Fred Shaw, Knox
  • Ralph DePalma, Fiat
  • George Robertson, Simplex
  • Joseph Downey, Knox
  • B.W. Shaw, Stoddard-Dayton
  • Herb Lytle, Apperson
  • Louis Chevrolet, Buick
  • Harry H. Cobe, Lozier
  • Charles Basle, Renault

A Boston Post (attachment Lowell_Road_Race) clip contatins two articles. This content was uncovered from Barney Oldfield's personal scrapbook. A portion of the article is missing as the scrapbook was poorly constructed and maintained. The byline was given to long time sports writer Howard G. Reynolds who in 1921 was commissioned colonel on the staff of the Governor of Kentucky.
The first article is not a race report, but an item that was published September 8, 1909 for the morning of the Lowell Trophy. It previews the day's upcoming events and within that material is the starting lineup which corroborates the Indianapolis News September 8 article. The Boston Post article also lists the cash prizes available for the big race in the following manner:

  • 1st Place: $1,000
  • 2nd Place: $500
  • 3rd Place: $300
  • 4th Place: $200

The article bills the race as an international battle and expected 125,000 spectators although most would line the public roads and never purchase a ticket. A 10,000 seat grandstand was expected to sell out however. Lowell Automobile Club President John O. Heinze fueled speculation that one of the attendees would be United States President Howard Taft as well as Governors of Massachusetts and the neighboring states.
The starting time was announced as 10 AM. The article recounts the starting order as is outlined in the list above. While the information provided is superficial it is significant when referring to little known names such as Knox driver Joe Downey and Stoddard-Dayton pilot B.W. Shaw.
Downey was from Boston and reportedly inexperienced at road racing. Other sources tell us he was not only a race driver but also a bicyclist and aviator. The article indicates he drove "huge" horsepower cars in competition in Florida and New York. As for Shaw, he had scored a victory in the Bailey Trophy on the Readville track in June.
Two other lesser known drivers are Harry Cobe and Charles Basle.
A sidebar article reports on a day of time trials that apparently occured the day prior - September 7. Actually there were nine individual events as 11 had been planned but two were scratched for lack of entrants. According to the report spectator attendance was disappointing but no numbers are provided.
Barney Oldfield, who was not entered in the Lowell Trophy road race, was the star of day as he attempted to break mile speed records in a 120 HP Benz (known as the Prince Henry Benz) racer he owned prior to purchasing the Blitzen Benz in 1910. Oldfield set fast mile time of day at 39.9 seconds for the mile. This was, according to the article, 1.5 seconds short of the recognized record established by a driver identified only as Kilpatrick. The problem with reports like this is that the writer (in this case Howard Reynolds as noted earlier) it is unclear exactly what record is being referenced. In 1906 Fred Marriott drove a Stanley Steamer to a mile speed of 127.66 MPH or 38.0 seconds.
A summary of the events with drivers, times and car makes appears below. Note that events 1 and 4 are not listed because they are scratched so the summary starts with event 2. Frustratingly only the driver's last name was provided and that appears in parentheses. Note that buried in these results and without explanation throughout the article the name of "Harroun" is listed as having the fourth best time of six competitors in event 11. This is the legendary winner of the first Indianapolis 500, Ray Harroun.  and if you check the results of the Yorick Club Trophy you will find Harroun finished second for Buick.
Event 2

  • Jackson (Blake), 1 minute, 3.8 seconds

Event 3

  • Matheson (Willardson), 1 minute, 2.4 seconds

Event 5

  • Apperson, (Lytle), 52.6 seconds
  • Knox, (Shaw), 55.3 seconds

Event 6

  • Benz, (Oldfield), 51.2 seconds
  • Buick, (Chevrolet) 58.9 seconds
  • Columbia, (Coffey), 59.9 seconds
  • Matheson, (Whalex), 1 minute, 3.8 seconds

Event 7

  • Buick, (Chevrolet), 1 minute, 1.6 seconds
  • Knox, (Belcher), 1 minute, 2.9 seconds

Event 8

  • Buick, (Chevrolet), 59.5 seconds
  • Knox, (Downey), 1 minute, 1.1 seconds
  • Knox, (Belcher), 1 minute, 2.3 seconds

Event 9

  • Buick, (L. Chevrolet), 1 minute, 3 seconds
  • Buick, (A. Chevrolet), 1 minute, 7 seconds
  • Columbia, (Coffey), 1 minute, 12.8 seconds

Event 10

  • Buick, (Burman), 1minute, 7.7 seconds
  • Buick, (DeWitt), 1 minute, 8.1 seconds

Event 11

  • Benz, (Oldfield), 39.9 seconds
  • Benz, (Oldfield), 41.0 seconds
  • Apperson, (Lytle), 44.4 seconds
  • Buick, (Chevrolet), 49.9 seconds
  • Buick, (Harroun), 52.2 seconds
  • Knox, (Disbrow), 57.7 seconds
  • Berkshire, (Clapp), 1 minute, 2.9 seconds

Attachment Lowell090909 contains an article published in the Indianapolis Star on September 9, 1909 and provides a summary of the entire 318 mile race. It refers to the 10.6 mile course as the "Merrimac Valley Circuit," where winner George Robertson covered the distance in five hours, 52 minutes and 1.4 seconds. Finishing 20 minutes later was Al Poole in the Italian Isotta-Fraschini who passed Edwin Parker in a Fiat on the last lap. Bob Burman was fourth in his Buick and Renault driver Charles Basle finished fifth.
The article reports an attendance estimate of 100,000 people. Louis Chevrolet, ever the hard charger, seized the lead in his Buick at the start. Robertson battled with Herb Lytle in the first 11 laps. Robertson forged ahead after that and led comfortably until a seven minute pit stop on lap 20 of the 30 lap race. He was able to return to the race still in the lead but with less than four laps to the finish Harry Grant in his Alco caught and passed him. According to the article, however, Grant met with an accident and his racer capsized. Apparently he was not seriously harmed but the mishap handed Robertson the victory.
Attachment Lowell091209 contains an Indianapolis Star article reporting on the motorcycle contests of the multi-day race carnival. It was published September 12, 1909 as the motorcycle competition came two days after the Lowell Cup auto race main event.
The races showcased many of the bikes and riders that had competed at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a month earlier in August. The course over which they competed was dramatically different and shorter at 3.2 miles. The course configuration was cited as the reason that setting mile speed records was not possible. The star of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway race meet, Freddie Huyck of Chicago set the fastest mile at 48.2 seconds. This performance earned him what was called the "Speed King Trophy" for two-wheeled event. The fastest lap time was established by New York's Stanley Kellogg while riding a Merkel during a three lap race.
Super star Jake DeRosier of Springfield, Massachusetts won the feature event of the day, a 19.2 "free-for-all" competition. His chief rival Ed Lingenfelder of Alhambra, California rode a California Soreigh bike but it broke down. Apparently - even unbelievably - he hopped on another machine, a Domestic, and was summarily disqualified.
The article provides a summary of the events at its conclusion and this is replicated below for better legibility. The rider name, bike (when provided) and elapsed time are provided in order.
Amateur Flying Mile Trials for Speed King Trophy

Private Owner Race With Bikes of 55 Cubic Inches or Less (19.2 Miles)

  • A.J. Chappelle, Indian, 25:21.2

Amateur 9.6 Mile Race

Free-For-All 19.2 Miles

Amateur  9.6 Mile Race for Bikes with 30.5 Cubic Inches

  • Walter Goerke, 12:08.6
  • Stanley Kellogg
  • Raymond Seymour

Amateur 50.8 Mile Lowell Automobile Club Trophy

  • Walter Goerke, 1:00:44
  • Freddie Huyck
  • W.J. Walker
  • Raymond Seymour
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Lowell090309.pdf263.23 KB
LowellNews090409.pdf298.65 KB
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LowellNews090809.pdf703.21 KB
Lowell_Road_Race.pdf719.41 KB
Lowell090909.pdf352.8 KB
Lowell091209.pdf450.64 KB