New Orleans - 1909

One of the big events in New Orleans during Mardi Gras 1909 was an auto race meet (February 20 - 22) on a mile dirt track near the historic city. Three drivers loomed large during the three days; Ralph DePalma, Bob Burman and the female driving sensation of the day, Joan Cuneo.
DePalma garnered the greatest headlines on the strength of winning a 50-mile "free for all" event on both the first and final days of the meet driving a Fiat Cyclone. He also received mucho accolades for busting Barney Oldfield's five-year-old 10 mile track record on the first day (see attachment DePalma022109). DePalma won other events during the meet including 1-mile and a 10-mile sprints on the first day as well as the second.  A handicap race - where some drivers were given a head start - was noteworthy not so much because DePalma caught up with everyone and won but for who finished second - woman driver Joan Cuneo.
Cuneo is an interesting figure in auto racing history. Obviously a talented, courageous driver she also presented a dilemma for promoters and especially the governing body of the sport, the American Automobile Association (AAA). The United States was in the throes of women's suffrage, just one example of how tremendously different the social moors of the day were compared to current sensibilities.
While Joan's endeavors extended well beyond the conventional expectations of a woman's role in society it wasn't simply that she was a source of annoyance playing a man's game. It was another curiosity of the day's attitude - the prevailing definition of being genteel. Women were seen as fair creatures that required man's protection from the harms of the world. Those who organized the sport must have feared the public backlash should a woman pay the ultimate price in the risky profession of driving cars at the brink of control. There were already those that viewed the auto racing as a barbaric practice and called for its demise. Given the prevailing perspectives of the day those that loved the sport were justified in their concerns (if not their actions) for its future should a woman perish at the wheel. Women were regulated out of wheel-to-wheel competition the following month, apparently as a direct result of Cuneo's New Orleans success.
The New Orleans meet was one of Cuneo's finest hours. She wrote history by setting records for female drivers with a new 5-mile mark on the first day (DePalma022109), as well as a new 1-mile record and victories in the Klaxton Trophy and the Klaw & Erlanger Trophy on the second day (Burman022209). She scored another win in an amateur race on the final day (DePalma02309) in the fourth event.
On the second day daredevil Bob Burman won the longest event of the three day race meet, a 100-mile stock car race. Driving a Buick he persevered over George Robertson (Simplex) and Lewis Strang (Isotta). Strang had enjoyed little success during his stay in New Orleans but Robertson picked up a 5-mile stock car sprint race win on the final day. An image of Burman and his winning Buick appears in attachment NewOrleans032109 with a caption that reports his record-breaking time of one hour, 42 minutes and 20 seconds. The article also notes that the same model car could be purchased at the Buick-Losey dealership in Indianapolis. An advertisement placed by Remy about their high tension magneto product appeared in the same day's paper touting how that equipment played a role in Burman's success at New Orleans.
These articles were published in the Indianapolis Star on the dates as indicated by the attachment names.

DePalma021409.pdf211.4 KB
DePalma021409.pdf211.4 KB
Burman022209.pdf488.92 KB
DePalma022309.pdf520.88 KB
Cuneo022309.pdf335.4 KB
NewOrleans032109.pdf268.14 KB
NewOrleansAd032109.pdf246.06 KB