Feb 03 2018

Helck Family Collection: Peter Helck’s Illustrated Wagner Envelopes

The great racing artist Peter Helck was a close friend of Louis Wagner, the winner of the 1906 Vanderbilt Cup Race, for 13 years from 1947 to 1960. This friendship was marked by a multitude of correspondence between Montlhery, France and Millerton, New York, including artwork from Helck and photos from Wagner.
The Helck Family Collection has over 100 letters between Helck and Wagner and their translations. Last week, I found copies of eight illustrated envelopes that Peter Helck had sent to Louis Wagner.

All photos courtesy of the Helck Family Collection.
Howard Kroplick

This is the first letter Peter Helck wrote to Louis Wagner dated June 28, 1947.

Helck described how thrilled he was to see Wagner drive through the Village of Roslyn after winning the 1906 Vanderbilt Cup Race.

Louis Wagner (1882-1960) in 1956 at the age of 74 years.

This is the envelope that I found in the Helck Family Collection. Peter Helck hand wrote:" Photos: Wagner Decorated Letters."

Inside were eight black and white copies of the envelopes that Helck had sent to Wagner. Each envelope featured an illustrated scene of Wagner's greatest racing triumphs.

Helck's Illustrated Wagner Envelopes

Dated: July 16, 1953

1903 Paris-Madrid Race

Dated: September 19, 1950

1905 Gordon Bennett Cup Eliminations

Dated: January 30, 1951

1906 Vanderbilt Cup Race

Dated: September 2, 1947

1907 Kaiserpreis

Dated: April 21, 1951

1910 American Grand Prize

Dated: December 18, 1950

Dated: July 29, 1948

Dated: 1947

One of the Helck Illustrated Wagner Envelopes has amazingly survived.

The envelope was acquired by the Pullman Gallery of London from a friend of the Helcks.

Peter Helck apparently placed illustrations on many of his correspondence. Here was the response from one of his friends.


Feb 04 2018 Art Kleiner 6:47 AM

What treasures!  Thanks for sharing, Howard.

Feb 04 2018 frank femenias 2:36 PM

Amazing way to recieve a letter from a friend. Each sent individually with unique artwork on the cover, without the use of printers and photoshop to assist. Wow!

Feb 04 2018 S. Berliner, III 5:20 PM

Art’s got it right!  Hmmm; mayhap I misremember but when I visited Peter ca. 1960, I went directly to Boston Corners (with an “S”!), with no Millerton involved.  Google Maps and Wikipedia leave off the “S” but the latter’s history keeps it.  Anyone know what this is all about?  Howard, do you have any Helck stationery or such?  Sam, III
Howard Kroplick

Sam III, I am sure I do and check it out this week.

Howard I

Feb 04 2018 Randy Reed 6:52 PM

The red Fiat S61shown on the envelope is the one that Wagner crashed in 1910 at the U.S. Grand Prix in Savannah. This fiat team of 3 cars was not allowed to race in the Vanderbilt Cup event because the displacement limit was 600 c.i. The Fiats were 616 c.i. They were later sleeved down to 589 c.i. for racing at Indianapolis. This particular car now resides in the Indianapolis Speedway Museum. One other team car is known to exist in the U.S.
Randy Reed
Howard Kroplick
Good job Randy!

Jul 20 2018 Al Freedman 12:48 PM

I own the 1903 Paris-Madrid.
I am considering disposing of some items.  If anyone has an interest feel free to contact me.

May 18 2019 Don Coker 12:19 PM

New to your blog, Howard. Love this Helck letter series! Always been a fan of his work and this gave me more insight. Thanks!


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