Jul 29 2013

Mystery Foto #26 Solved: George Robertson’s Accident During the 1906 American Trial

This week's Mystery Foto comes from the collection of Paul Osika, one of my favorite Hershey vendors.

Mystery Foto questions:

-What was the year of the accident?


-Which car and driver was involved?

George Robertson (driver) and Arthur Warren (mechanician)

-When and where did the accident occur?

Westbury Road in Old Westbury or Roslyn during a practice run for the 1906 American Trial to select 5 American cars for the 1906 Vanderbilt Cup Race

-What was the impact of the accident on that year's Vanderbilt Cup Race?

Robertson broke his collar bone and Warren broke both ribs. Both the team and the Apperson were unable to compete in the American Trial. This accident and the death of a spectator during the 1906 Vanderbilt Cup Race reinforced the need for a private speedway for the races and eventually the creation of the Long Island Motor Parkway.

Congrats to this week's Mystery Foto dectectives: Jean-Yves Lassaux (who also provided the three above images),  Arejan Bos, Art K.,  and Greg Oreiro (who found my earlier Pickering photo of the accident). Ted, better luck next week!!

If you have a suggested Mystery Foto, please send me a jpeg at [email protected] .



Howard Kroplick


Photos from Jean-Yves Lassaux

More Photos of the Accident

Photo taken by Roslyn photographer William Pickering

"Pilot George Robertson and Mechanic Warren and the 90-Horsepower Apperson Racer, Of Which Much Was Expected."


Jul 26 2013 Ted 1:37 AM

Oh Howard !! I recognize where it is,but can’t place it,any hints,I did some searching,but nothing looks like it. PLEASE!!!

Jul 26 2013 Steve Lucas 3:04 PM

It looks like the Apperson car that George Robertson wrapped around a pole on Old Westbury Road in Roslyn during the 9/19/06 American Elimination Trial, thus “eliminating” him from competing for the Vanderbilt Cup three days later.

Jul 26 2013 Ariejan Bos 4:10 PM

These are the remnants of the Apperson, which crashed at Hairpin Turn on Old Westbury Road in Roslyn during practice for the American Elimination Trials of the 1906 Vanderbilt Cup race on September 19th, 3 days before the actual race. Whether a steering linkage broke or a tire blew is not clear, but the car swerved and struck into a tree. It seems a miracle that driver Robertson and his mechanic Arthur Warren were only slightly hurt during this accident. The blow must have been tremendous. Robertson only broke a collar bone, Warren two ribs! I couldn’t find any effect on the Vanderbilt Cup race other than that Robertson and his Apperson, who belonged to the favourites, weren’t able to qualify for the main event (understandably).
The man with the goggles, on the left side of the photo, could that be Robertson (though he doesn’t look like someone with a broken collar bone)? In the background we see a Pan-o-Lite (trade name for cylinder oils and auto body soap) panel van, which can also be seen on one of the other photos of the accident scene. I wonder why it is present there: cylinder oil doesn’t seem necessary any more and auto body soap will make this wreck at its best a shiny wreck ...

Jul 28 2013 Art K. 10:17 PM

Apperson driven by George Robertson
Sept. 19, 1906 - Pracaticing for the American Elimination Trials
Old Westbury Road, Roslyn
Robertson couldn’t compete in the 1906 race, having to wait until 1908 to win.

Jul 29 2013 Greg Oreiro 7:35 PM

I had figured this wreck was possibly during the1906 races/trials since they were the most deadly. I was ready to give up after looking all weekend, hence my last minute posting, then lo and behold!! I found your Sept 17 2009 blog entry on the wreck…

“On the morning of Wednesday, September 19, 1906, George Robertson destroyed the [#10]Apperson, injuring himself and riding mechanic Arthur Warren. The accident occurred on Old Westbury Road in Roslyn about one mile from the East Broadway store of William Pickering. Eyewitnesses estimated his speed at 60 miles per hour. The owners and designers of his car, Edgar and Elmer Apperson, theorized that a left rear tire blew before they struck a large tree. That impact hurled the machine into a telegraph pole broadside.The force of the accident was so great the car was wound around the pole like a piece of wire, its radiator touching its rear axle. Aside from the motor, the car was a total loss.”


Jul 29 2013 Howard Kroplick 8:54 PM

From Jean-Yves Lassaux:

Hi Howard,

Here is my answer with three pictures.

  -What was the year of the accident?

-Which car and driver was involved?
George Robertson in Apperson 80hp. His mechanic was Arthur Warren, son of Louis H. Warren the man who taught future champion David L. Bruce-Brown how to drive.

Both man were seriously injured but later recovered.

-When and where did the accident occur?
September 19, 1906 during practice for the elimination trial, on Westbury Road after the Hairpin Turn of Old Westbury.

-What was the impact of the accident on that year’s Vanderbilt Cup Race?
This accident, the death of a spectator during the race (Kurt L. Gruner hit by Elliott F. Shepard Jr.‘s Hotchkiss on lap 6) and the bad press that follows, generate the creation of the Automobile Highway Association later become the Long Island Motor Parkway Incorporation, with the project of building the first American road especially for automobile. Problems with estate private owners delayed the construction and the 1907 race was cancelled.

Jul 30 2013 Ted 12:30 AM

After looking at the pictures I remembered seeing them but just didn’t know where it all took place. I just didn’t know where to look and where I did look wasn’t the right place. I took a crack at it anyway,like you said,better luck next week

Jul 30 2013 Greg Oreiro 12:40 PM

Question about the photo(s) and the possible causes for the accident;
I noticed that the Pickering photos must have been photographed later after the accident since the car has been removed from the pole. In those photos, while the car is on the ground, it appears that the engine covers, seats and RIGHT rear tire are missing from the vehicle. In the photo taken earlier of the car, while it was still wrapped around the pole, all those parts are still present on the vehicle. The intact rear tires are interesting to note since, to quote the 2009 blog entry;
“The owners and designers of his car, Edgar and Elmer Apperson, theorized that a left rear tire blew before they struck a large tree” 
It’s possible the missing seat and covers may have been needed to be removed to get it off the pole, but the tire still seems a little puzzling.
Any other speculations on the missing parts and tire?  Could it be an indication of a loss of steering linkage as Ariejan suggested in his post?

Jul 31 2013 Jean-Yves Lassaux 6:46 AM

Hi Greg,

The September 20, 1906 of The New York Times issue quote:

(about the accident)
“As Mr. Roberston explained later in the hospital, the hub of the left front wheel struck a small oak tree, switching the car around instantly to the left. It turned partly over, throwing the men out. The car’s momentum carried it along at a fast pace, even while turning over, and while on its side it struck the telegraph pole between the dashboard and the seats.”

(about the men)
“Roberston has his right collar bone broken and his right hip was badly bruised. Warren had both wrists broken and suffered from concussion of the brain. He was also cut about the face. Both men were thrown from thirty to forty feet. When found by Lee Frayer, [...], Robertson was unconscious, while Warren was moaming with pain. The injured men were removed to the Nassau County Hospital in Mineola.”

About the missing rim? No idea…

Jul 31 2013 Greg Oreiro 7:08 PM

Merci pour l’information Jean-Yves!
So it was neither the linkage nor a tire! Instead, it was driver error for getting too close to road obstacles! Surprising for a driver that ‘Much Was Expected’!

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