Robertson Wrecks Jack Rabbitt

Contained in the attachments below are two articles from the Indianapolis Star and one from the Indianapolis News concerning practice for the American Elimination Trial for the Vanderbilt Cup Race. The second attachment has a Star article from September 20, 1906 and the third an article supported by a grainy image of the Apperson "Jackrabbit" entry as well as an update on practice from the next day, September 21. The Indianapolis News article in the first attachment was published the same day as the George Robertson accident referenced in this post's headline. That date was September 19, 1906.
The articles cover a dramatic development during practice  - one of the most interesting and violent auto racing accidents I have read about. This occured when George Robertson, one of the top drivers of the day, hit a telegraph pole at the side of the road (the Vanderbilt Cup Race was conducted on public roads). The Apperson Jackrabbit that Robertson drove was literally wrapped around the telegraph pole with its front end almost touching its rear.
Attachment VCRwreckNews091906 contains the earliest dated article, which was published in the evening paper, the Indianapolis News. It is important to note that the dateline for this article is Kokomo. This underscores the Hoosier interest in the success of Apperson and the understandable disappointment in the team's loss. 
It was ironic that the car's destruction on a telegraph pole which was carrying the communications infrastructure that made same-day coverage of the incident in evening newspapers across the country. The article suggests that George Robertson's injuries included a broken shoulder and arm. His riding mechanic, Frank Warren reportedly broke both his arms. Both were suspected to have some internal injuries, but nothing serious. Later reports painted a slightly different picture with less serious injuries. You'll read that below.
Up to the point of the wreck, the Apperson team had set the pace in practice. Robertson was consistently cutting laps at a 60 MPH average - covering the 29.7 mile course right at 30 minutes or slightly less. Interestingly, the car was wrecked three weeks earlier during shakedown runs with company Founder Edgar Apperson driving on public roads near Laporte, Indiana. The article reports that a tire exploded in that instance and Apperson (the man) was injured.
A sidebar article titled, "Robertson, Daring Driver," is also included in this attachment. Here the car is referred to as the "Eighty" Apperson, referring to its horsepower. Robertson's impressive speed is again reported, this time saying his lap time was 31 minutes. Note that the timers were referred to as "clockers." Herb Lytle is also reported to be at Robertson's pace in the Pope-Toledo. Understand these were craggy, sometimes flat-out treacherous gravel roads.
In addition to reporting on Robertson's impressive speed, his driving style is described. I found the reporting interesting in that the writer notes that Robertson used his brakes effectively and accelerated through the corners so he lost no momentum as he entered the straights, which is fundamental to mastering road racing - or any racing for that matter. Robertson is noted for his youth at 22.
Veteran driver Joe Tracy is mentioned as well. He is described as "calculating," and "cautious." He drove for Locomobile and was respected for "saving" his race cars. 
The next attachement, VCRpractice, contains an article from the September 20, 1906 Indianapolis Star. The title is, "Racer is Wrecked," and provides more detail on the incident and the health of the two men. His riding mechanic's name in this article is reported as Arthur Warren, not Frank as in the one reviewed above. The two men were reportedly in Nassau Hospital in Mineola, a Long Island town. 
The article reports a number of interesting things. One, Edgar L. Apperson apparently entered the car through the Chicago Automobile Club of which he was a member. His car was one of 15 entered in the American Elimination Trial. Robertson had set the pace in early practice but that morning disaster struck when he clobbered the telegraph pole at the side Old Westbury Road. Fellow driver Lee Frayer returned to his "training quarters" to report that he had seen the destroyed Apperson and the injured drivers lying beside it. 
Another driver, H.N. Harding rushed to the home of Dr. John Mann of Westbury and returned to the scene with the physician. Dr. Mann applied first aid to the men to prepare them for transport to the hospital. Robertson was transfered to the hospital by Julius F. Stone of Columbus, Ohio. Meanwhile another of the professional race drivers, Herb Lytle, carried Warren in his personal touring car to the same destination. As you can see, this level of detail is both amazing and important.
Ostensibly both Robertson and Warren were so badly shaken up that they were not completely coherent. Robertson did indicate that the steering gear failed, but both Edgar and Elmer Apperson reportedly examined the equipment and could not identify any failure. God knows, of course, because neither would want to admit to any defect in their product.
The article says that the exact spot of the accident was a double curve in the road. The location of the accident was on Old Westbury Road where it intersects with Mineola Avenue. About 100 yards before the accident scene was a "double curve." The first part of the curve is described as making a slight right twist before a left curve begins. The article seems to speculate that the car's momentum through the right turn was too great to accomplish a swing to the left.
There was also speculation that there was right rear tire failure and the car became impossible to steer effectively. This line of reasoning also suggests that the car struck or brushed a tree near a fence at the side of the road. The car then skidded broadside and clobbered the telegraph pole about 10 feet from the tree. Robertson and Warren were thrown an estimated 50 feet from the car to land in tall grass.
The car literally folded around the pole in the shape of the letter, "U." Parts of the machine were imbedded in the pole actually pinning the car to the it like a piece of paper. This article reports injuries to the men that differ from the one already described above. Robertson is reported to have suffered a fractured collarbone and bruised right hip. Warren suffered broken wrists and abrasion on his forehead.
This article closes with another news item concerning Vanderbilt Cup Founder William K. Vanderbilt Jr. Apparently Vanderbilt considered competing in the contest with his own car. This possibility had its critics - especially since his car was a Mercedes - and apparently several were of great influence. In response, Vanderbilt had sent a letter to the American Automobile Association (AAA) Racing Board the previous day. The text of that letter was reported in the article and appears below:
"Gentlemen - Having been informed by a member of the board that certain of the manufacturers of American machines who have entered car to compete for the Vanderbilt Cup have commented on my driving a Mercedes car in the race, and it being that I only entered in the spirit of the sport and not wishing to take any part that would not be agreeable to all contestants, I beg to withdraw my entry. I remain, very truly yours. W.K. Vanderbilt Jr."
The third attachment, VCRpractice2, contains an article published September 21, 1906. It provides the final update on practice before the American Elimination Race. With the demise of the Apperson there were now 14 contenders for five American slots in the Vanderbilt Cup field. Eleven cars practiced in the morning of September 20 - at least according to this report. Three cars - the Pope-Toledo for Herb Lytle, Walter Christie's "Direct-Drive Christie" and the B.L.M. entry for Henri Dolbeau were reportedly on the grounds. The B.L.M. was destined not to make the field due to engine failure.
Lytle's reason for missing practice was explained as a faulty wheel and the need for other "adjustments." The drivers were only allowed two hours of practice, from 5 to 7 AM, due to the fact that they were using public roads. Long Island was an agrarian economy and farmers typically used horse-drawn wagons to bring their products to market.
The crowd a "Krug's Corner," named after a business there, was the largest since practice had started days earlier. Speculation was that this was due to Robertson's accident and the curious wanted to be on hand for another crash. Krug's was where the drivers turned from Mineola Avenue onto Jericho Turnpike which led to start-finish. The article says that Locomobile pilot Joe Tracy stopped at his "headquarters" (a term for the temporary garages taken up by the teams) to pick up a woman passenger who he gave a high speed lap of the course. The Locomobile headquarters was at Lakeside. Tracy's lap of the 29.7-mile circuit was reportedly recorded at 35 minutes.
Two drivers, Wallace Owen and H.N. Harding were reported to be making their first appearance on the course. Owen was in an eight-cylinder Maxwell with two radiators and Harding was at the wheel of the green Haynes dubbed, "Irishman." The Maxwell was another car that eventually did not start the elimination race.
Frayer-Miller had three entries, all unique in that they were air-cooled engines. Lee Frayer was the top driver of the group and started from Krug's Corner to complete three tours of the course at 49.5, 36.5 and 38.5 minutes. The other two Frayer-Miller cars were driven by Frank Lawwell and E.H. Belden. They hit the course at 5:03 AM. Lawwell made two laps at 58.5 minutes and 36 seconds. Beldon also did two laps, requiring an hour for the first and 38.5 seconds for the second.
Attachment VCRNews092106 contains a short article reporting on the final day of practice prior to the American Elimination Trial. It appears the Indianapolis News had a correspondent in Long Island for coverage. The article reports plans called for a field of 14 cars but allowed that withdrawals were possible. 
Eleven cars had been on the course during the final morning practice, but heavy fog forced drivers to be cautious. Predictions called for massive crowds lining the 29.7-mile course. Rules called for the first five finishers to represent the United States in the upcoming Vanderbilt Cup.
Some drivers expressed concern about large rocks lining the right side of the North Hempstead Turnpike beyond Mineola Avenue. The stretch was seen as a likely spot for passing and the boulders presented a danger if a accidentally clipped them.
The article also updated the medical conditions of George Robertson and his riding mechanic Warren, referred to as Arthur Warren in this article. Corroborating another report discussed above Robertson apparently had a fractured collarbone and Warren incurred fractures to both his wrists. The young men were expected to experience a rapid recovery and no internal injuries were apparent.

VCRwreckNews091906.pdf636.78 KB
VCRpractice.pdf3.73 MB
VCRpractice2.pdf6.81 MB
VCRNews092106.pdf464.31 KB