Feb 22 2014

Exclusive Firsthand Account of the 1904 Vanderbilt Cup Race: “A Very Successful Trip”

Walter Gosden has discovered an original October 11, 1904 letter from"Nephew Harvey Bell" to his "Uncle John" describing his adventures in a US Long Distance automobile to watch the 1904 Vanderbilt Cup Race.

Below is the first-hand account of the "very successful trip"  from Yonkers to Westbury as described by Harvey Bell.  Photos and a film of the racers have been added from my collection.


Howard Kroplick

Dear Uncle John:

            I had a very successful trip the other day so I thought I would tell thee about it.

            A friend and I left Yonkers (my house) at 3 p.m. Friday in the US Long Distance for Flushing.  The machine ran all right as I had overhauled it during the past few

Weeks  and we arrived in time to get gasolene and to make small repairs for the morrow.

            We got up at 4 a.m. Saturday and Uncle Rob too as he was to be our guide through Long Island.

            At 4:45 we were off and it seemed queer to have the lights lit at that hour, but it was no use trying to run without them. 

Many cars shot by us and they did look very queer in the gray light of our early autumn morning.

            In about one hours time we reached a spot where many autos stood and men in uniform strolled up and down trying to keep people off the course.

            The place was near the start so that when the autos reached us they had made almost one round of the course.

            Pretty soon Gabriel

in the De Dietrich reached us he had passed Mercedes and was running very fast.

            Then came the Pope Toledo, the 24 horse going 70 miles easily and seemed faster than Gabriel.  Heath in the Panhard seemed even faster than the rest.  Then followed Mercedes, F.I.A.T., Renault and Clement all going fair, but none could touch Croker in the 75 H.P. Simplex and what is better at the end

his motor was running the best of any on this course, his troubles were tires and weak springs which had to be put on to make the machine light enough to enter, but she ran well and would easily have won if she could have run as the company first made her.

            This 24 Pope Toledo and Gray Wolf did well for

 their weight.

            After the race we went over the best of the course and then returned to Flushing arriving in time to clean the car well before dinner.

            The next day it rained, and we had to go home so the run back to Yonkers was made rather quickly.

Hoping to see you all before we say good by for the winter I am thy affect.

Nephew Harvey Bell


A 1903 US Long Distance

Fernand Gabriel in the #2 De Dietrich

George Heath in the #7 90-HP  Panhard trying to pass Herb Lytle's #6 24-HP Pope Toledo.

Frank Crocker in the #17 Simplex.

Charles Schmidt in the #17 "Gray Wolf" Packard


Feb 23 2014 Howard Kroplick 11:53 AM

From Tom M:

I just want to let you know how much I have continued to enjoy this site.

Thanks for not only keeping it up, but for adding cool new things to it all the time!

Feb 24 2014 Howard Kroplick 9:09 AM

From Linda C.

What an interesting letter from 1904 “ A Very Successful Trip”. I enjoyed that

Feb 24 2014 Howard Kroplick 9:16 AM

From Ariejan Bos:

I enjoyed very much the eyewitness report letter. Through these documents the events, which seem so far away in time, come really close to us.

Feb 24 2014 R Troy 11:50 PM

Great letter.  And that Packard is amazing looking!


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