Chief Seattle Thelma Dewitty Thomas Foley Carrie Chapman Catt Anna Louise Strong Mark Tobey Helene Madison Home
Search Encyclopedia
Facebook
Advanced Search
Featured Eassy Sponsor of the Week Book Store Donate Now
Home About Us Contact Us Education Bookstore Tourism Advanced Search
6852 HistoryLink.org essays now available      
Donate Subscribe

Shortcuts

Libraries
Cyberpedias Cyberpedias
Timeline Essays Timeline Essays
People's Histories People's Histories

Selected Collections
Cities & Towns Cities & Towns
County Thumbnails Counties
Biographies Biographies
Interactive Cybertours Interactive Cybertours
Slide Shows Slideshows
Public Ports Public Ports
Audio & Video Audio & Video

Research Shortcuts

Map Searches
Alphabetical Search
Timeline Date Search
Topic Search

Features

Book of the Fortnight
Audio/Video Enhanced
History Bookshelf
Klondike Gold Rush Database
Duvall Newspaper Index
Wellington Scrapbook

More History

Washington FAQs
Washington Milestones
Honor Rolls
Columbia Basin
Everett
Olympia
Seattle
Spokane
Tacoma
Walla Walla
Roads & Rails

Timeline Library

< Browse to Previous Essay | Browse to Next Essay >

Northwest's first 24-hour automobile race begins at The Meadows on September 10, 1909.

HistoryLink.org Essay 8712 : Printer-Friendly Format

At 9 p.m. on September 10, 1909, the first 24-hour automobile race held in the Northwest begins at The Meadows racetrack near Georgetown. The three-car race features hours of monotonous lap-after-lap driving, a breathtaking near-collision at high speed, and a surprise finish by an unlikely winner, whose average speed for the race is a whopping 29 miles per hour.

Going Fast

The Meadows was a one-mile dirt track, located south of Georgetown along the Duwamish River. Built in 1902, it soon became a favorite spot in the Northwest for horse racing, and also saw the Northwest's first automobile race in August 1905. Then, in September 1909, a series of auto and motorcycle races were held in Seattle: Timed hill-climbing sprints were held on Queen Anne Hill, and a number of races of various lengths, ranging from one to 100 miles long, were held at The Meadows. But the big race was the 24-hour endurance race.

Rain overnight on September 9-10 muddied the track and made it so slippery that some of the shorter races scheduled for the afternoon of the 10th were postponed for a day, but the 24-hour race began at 9 p.m. on Friday, September 10, with a de rigueur opening by a brass band playing military music. Spectators cheered as the three race cars began circling the brightly-lighted track, led by a fourth pace car, dismissively described by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer as a "doughty little twenty-horse power Ford." The Ford paced the other three cars for an hour at about 30 m.p.h. so the cars could work the track, soft from rain and oil, into firmer shape better suited for a 24-hour endurance race. At 10 p.m. the Ford pulled out of the race and the other three racers settled in for the long haul.

A Mud Track and a Potato Patch

The three race cars were an Allen-Kingston, a Hudson, and a White Steamer. They cruised along in a rather monotonous circle of laps, interrupted briefly about 11 p.m. when the White accidentally drove off the track and into a potato patch. (Within 10 minutes it was back in the race.) The race continued through the wee hours of the morning, with the spectators gradually drifting away until, by 4 a.m., only a handful of spectators and officials remained, doubtlessly getting bored and tired.

Maybe a little too tired. Just after 4 a.m., the Hudson pulled in for a pit stop to change tires and take on gas and oil. Someone wasn't paying attention, and the Hudson was allowed back out onto the track just as the other two racers were coming onto the stretch behind it. The Hudson's driver, apparently unaware of the two racers rapidly closing behind him, failed to stay on the outside of the track as the rules required and instead cut in front of the other two drivers to the inside of the track. The three cars, traveling at about 60 m.p.h., all caught up to each other as they reached the first turn, described by the Post-Intelligencer as being soft and muddy, and the worst spot of any part of the track.

Winning, Fishtailing, Losing

The Hudson's driver finally realized his mistake and swerved to the outside of the track, while the Allen-Kingston hugged the inside. The White found itself sandwiched between them with only inches to spare (the next day the Seattle Post-Intelligencer said "at no time were there more than three inches of leeway between the White and the two other cars"). Worse, the White began to fishtail in the mud as it made the turn, and only the rock steady hand of driver Fred Dundee saved the day.

The race continued without incident through Saturday morning, then was stopped at 1 p.m. so that other, shorter races (by both automobile and motorcycle) could be held on the track. The 24-hour race resumed at 6 p.m. By this time the Allen-Kingston had established a commanding lead of nearly 200 miles over its nearest rival, the Hudson, and could have almost coasted to victory from there. But minutes after the cars got back on the track, a broken differential knocked the Allen-Kingston out of the race. Its crew worked with increasing desperation to try to fix the car in time, but gave up in despair when it became apparent that the Hudson would win.

A respectable crowd was on hand at 2 a.m. on Sunday, September 12, when the race ended. The Hudson -- considered the dark horse by most -- won with a total of 706 miles, or an average speed of 29.42 miles per hour for the entire race. Despite its breakdown, the Allen-Kingston still traveled more total miles than the White (and only 26 miles less than the Hudson), but was disqualified from second place because it did not finish the race. That honor went to the White, which also had the dubious honor of catching on fire twice during the marathon and still managing to finish. The prizes were generous by 1909 standards: $500 for first place (nearly $10,000 in 2008 dollars), followed by $300 for second, and $200 for third.

Sources:
"Racing Autos In Night-And-Day Grind On Track," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, September 11, 1909, Sec. 1, p. 1, 11; "24-Hour Race Drivers Near To Death," Ibid., September 12, 1909, Sec. 2, p. 6; "Dark Horse Wins In Endurance Race," Ibid., September 13, 1909, Sec. 1, p. 3; "Hudson Car Wins Big Auto Race" Seattle Sunday Times, September 12, 1909, p. 4; HistoryLink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Meadows Race Track" (by David Wilma), http://www.historylink.org (accessed July 26,2008).


Travel through time (chronological order):
< Browse to Previous Essay | Browse to Next Essay >

Related Topics: Sports | Roads & Rails | Firsts |

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both HistoryLink.org and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License


Major Support for HistoryLink.org Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You




"Dark Horse Wins in Endurance Race," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, September 13, 1909, p. 3



Clubhouse at The Meadows Race Track, Georgetown, ca. 1909
Courtesy MOHAI (Image No. 83.10.6,738.2)


Autos race at The Meadows, Georgetown, 1905
Courtesy Seattle Public Library, Costello Scrapbook


 
Home About Us Contact Us Education Bookstore Tourism Advanced Search

HistoryLink.org is the first online encyclopedia of local and state history created expressly for the Internet. (SM)
HistoryLink.org is a free public and educational resource produced by History Ink, a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt corporation.
Contact us by phone at 206.447.8140, by mail at Historylink, 1411 4th Ave. Suite 803, Seattle WA 98101 or email admin@historylink.org