1905 Rainmaker

By September 1905 much of the automobile trade media railed against what they called "track racing." This was use of horse tracks to conduct auto races. These affairs were very popular for several reasons. First, the quality of public roads was very poor with only a few hundred miles of paved streets in the country. Second, appropriating public roads for auto races always created issues with community leaders who saw auto racing as a frivolous and dangerous pastime. Third, charging spectators for observing races on long road courses was very difficult. For example, the overwhelming number of the spectators of the Vanderbilt Cup Races on Long Island (1904-1910) never purchased a ticket. The problem was that in August 1905 three of track racing's greatest stars: Barney Oldfield, Webb Jay, and Earl Kiser were gravely injured in accidents while racing.
Oldfield's injuries were the least serious and he was able to recover and continue his career. For Webb Jay and Earl Kiser, their injuries ended their career. Jay suffered a life-threatening concusion and Earl Kiser had one of his legs amputated to prevent additional complications. After these accidents the press pushed for an end to the slaughter, and activists sometimes led by church groups hired professional "rainmakers," such as Ned Broadwell, pictured here. These men presented themselves as possessing some talent for drumming up precipitation upon request. This image is from a photo that was taken at the Glenville horse track on August 14, 1905, just two days after Kiser's accident at the same facility. Just for the record - it rained.

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