Centennial of Great Race Honored with Exhibit

February 12 marked 100 years since the launch of the longest and perhaps craziest auto race ever – around the world from New York to Paris. Six cars (seven more never showed up) departed Times Square, at times following the future Lincoln Highway to San Francisco. The American entry, a 1907 4-cylinder Thomas Flyer roadster, would win, driven most of the way by George Schuster, who would later write about his adventures in The Longest Auto Race. The 1965 comedy The Great Race (Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtiss, Natalie Wood, Peter Falk), loosely based on the race, barely touched on the hardships faced by the real racers.

Thomas_exhibit

The 1908 race has been honored with a 14-month exhibit at the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada, a few blocks off the Lincoln Highway. Through next January, visitors can see the 1,400-pound trophy, the American flag carried the whole way, and most impressively, the restored Thomas Flyer (seen above, in a photo courtesy the museum). Then starting May 30, up to 40 teams will again depart New York City for Paris, covering 22,000 miles, though only half of that driven. A summary of the race and exhibit can be found in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Schuster Book

Another group is rebuilding a 1908 White and plans to retrace the route and pffering educational programs, but their hopes to launch the February 12 have been delayed.

Schuster never did get paid the $10,000 (he thought was proper for a half-year’s work) by the Thomas company – they said the race had cost them too much already. And The New York Times delayed paying him the $1,000 prize for 60 years. Schuster, then 95, was appreciative but noted that a grand was not worth nearly as much in 1968 as in 1908.

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5 thoughts on “Centennial of Great Race Honored with Exhibit

  1. FYI, since we had to pull this together quickly, people may not be aware, but as we speak, a group of people who were originally signed up for the May 30th, 2008 Great Race event that didn’t happen, are converging in New York to depart Times Square on Oct. 18. This new event is called The Longest Auto Race Centennial. The caravan of vintage cars will follow the original leg of the North American route George Schuster used. To learn more about this event and download a press release, route map, etc., go to our web site and check it out. A blog will soon be added so interested parties can “ride along” with the travelers as they make their way across the U.S., ending up at the San Francisco Ferry Building on Nov. 9, 2008.

  2. Pingback: Great Race US-only event to launch Saturday « Lincoln Highway News

  3. Brian, I was the tour guide in the school bus tour of the old Lincoln Highway. New information on the Longest Auto Race of 1908 just came to light in Wyoming. For history buffs the Uinta County Museum in Evanston Wyoming recently had a perpetual calendar donated. It sat on counters of various stores in the town from 1894 through 1975. People could write comments at will on any of the date pages. We just discovered comments written on March 13, 14, 20, 21, and 26, 1908 that document the 1908 race. Here are some examples: March 14, “American auto left at 8am”, and March 20, “Italian car arrived at 3 PM today 1908” on the page for March 20. Anyone is welcome to see these pages and historic comments in the calendar, which is on permanent display on the second floor of the Museum in downtown Evanston, Wyoming.

    • Dear Sir:

      Just wanted you to know that I have an original copy
      of the book, The New York to Paris Race, published by
      the Thomas Motor Company, Buffalo New York. Published
      about the year of 1909.

      I have written a narrative about the Life of Edwin Ross Thomas,
      the owner of the motor company.

      If you would like to have a copy, I can send it to you.

      Robert Emerick

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