Feb 15 2010

The Checkered Flags of the Vanderbilt Cup Races


As Louis Wagner was about to win the 1906 Vanderbilt Cup Race in the #10 Darracq, starter Fred Wagner waved what is believed to be the first checkered flag used to signify the finish of an auto race. Here are the winners of the six Vanderbilt Cup Races of Long Island...the last four receiving a checkered flag from Fred Wagner. Remember to click on the image to enlarge it.

 

1904 Vanderbilt Cup Race: George Heath winning in a Panhard (France), averaging 52.2 mph. A white flag signified the end of the final lap.



 

1905 Vanderbilt Cup Race: Victory Hemery winning in a Darracq (France), averaging 61.4 mph. A red or yellow flag signified the end of the final lap.



 

1906 Vanderbilt Cup Race: Louis Wagner winning in a Darracq (France), averaging 60.8 mph. First known use of a checkered flag to signify the finish of an automobile race.



 

1908 Vanderbilt Cup Race: George Robertson winning in a Locomobile (USA). First American car to win the Vanderbilt Cup Race.



 

1909 Vanderbilt Cup Race: Harry Grant winning in an Alco (USA), averaging 62.8 mph.



 

1910 Vanderbilt Cup Race:Harry Grant winning in an Alco (USA), averaging 65.18 mph. First car and driver to win consecutive Vanderbilt Cup Races.



February 17, 2010 Update: Bill B: Does anyone know the use of the other flags?

Bill, as shown below, the meaning of the flags used during the 1904 to 1906 Vanderbilt Cup Races changed every year. NASCAR is worried about potholes on their tracks...Vanderbilt was concerned about trains and runaway horses!


-1904 Vanderbilt Cup Race Instructions to Special Officers at Highway Crossings:


"In case a runaway horse gets on the course, use your red flag to warn the racers."

"Waving your white flag, or keeping it in view, serves to remind them the course is clear."


-1905 Vanderbilt Cup Race Instructions to Contestants:

"Bear in mind that the RED FLAG means "Everything All Right."

"Bear in mind that the YELLOW FLAG means "Danger," and therefore use extreme caution."

"Obey promptly the YELLOW FLAG signal, which will be given at the "Start and Finish" line at the conclusion of the race."

"Evey turn and crossroad will be guarded by flagmen, whose "ALL-RIGHT" signal will be a RED FLAG, and whose "DANGER" warning will be a YELLOW FLAG."

"Contestants are particularly warned to give prompt heed to the YELLOW FLAG at the two railroad crossings, and be prepared to come to a full stop.

"Again, keep in mind that the RED FLAG means "ALL RIGHT," and the YELLOW FLAG means "DANGER".


-1906 Vanderbilt Cup Race Instructions to Special Officers and Flagmen:

"In case a runaway horse gets on the course, use your YELLOW FLAG to warn the contestants."

"Waving your RED FLAG, or keeping it in view, serves to remind the contestants that the course is clear."

"Bear in mind that the RED FLAG is a warning to spectators that a car is coming, and is a sign to contestants that the course is clear."

"Bear in mind that the YELOW FLAG is a warning to the contestants that there is danger ahead, and to use extreme caution or stop."


The use of the white flags (and two horses!) during the 1904 race can be seen at the 35 second mark of this remarkable film.


The use of the checkered flag seen at the end of the 1906 race was not mentioned in any of the official instructions and did not even get a mention in articles describing the race. Unfortunately, it was not seen in this film of the 1906 race.



Comments

Feb 21 2010 Tony D 2:46 PM

I would like to say how much I am enjoying the excellent photos and information in your blog on your Vanderbilt Cup Site. I check back every day to see what you
have added.

Feb 21 2010 E. Dean B 2:48 PM

I second the motion re. the awe inspiring work Howard is doing with the Vanderbilt Cup web site.

Thank you Howard!

Feb 21 2010 Harold O. 8:55 PM

At Santa Monica, the checkered flag was used as a finishing signal for the first time in 1914. Yellow meant stop, green said one lap remained. In 1913, the checkers indicated one lap remaining.
For the 1909 Santa Monica race, the flags were: Red = stop; White = course clear; Green = slow down; Black = finish.
What is often overlooked is the fact that the sport of auto racing in this period had yet to develop as an actual sport as we see them today. There were rules, yes, but most of the requirements for safety and operation had yet to be decided upon due to plain ol’ ignorance of what was needed. Drivers had trouble keeping track, imagine how hard it was for fans to follow along.    HOPublishing.com

Feb 23 2010 Steve Green 2:52 PM

I’m greatly enjoying Howard K.‘s stream of info on the Vanderbilt Cup races in New York.  You can see an interesting artistic rendition of the 1908 winner (the #16 Locomobile) by artist David Wasserman (now deceased) by going to TinCanMan99 on AOL (or googling Mr. Wasserman’s name) and reviewing his very interesting metal art.

Feb 23 2010 Howard Kroplick 7:38 PM

Hi Steve:

Thanks for the feedback!

Here’s a link to information on David Wasserman’s amazing tin art.

http://www.vanderbiltcupraces.com/blog/article/friday_april_17_2009_old_16_tin_art_by_david_wasserman

Enjoy,

Howard

Leave a Comment