Mar 30 2015

Mystery Foto #13 Solved: New York Supreme Court Justice Wilmot Moses Smith (1852-1906)

Steve Lucas challenged you to identify this prominent Patchogue resident who has been judged to have had a major impact  on the 1904 Vanderbilt Cup Race.

Answers to the Mystery Foto questions:

  • Identify the gentleman

Wilmot Moses Smith (March 1, 1852–1906) was an American jurist and songwriter. He was on the New York Supreme Court, but is perhaps more famous for co-writing "Far Above Cayuga's Waters", Cornell University's alma mater.

Born in Hauppauge, New York, to Moses R. Smith and Mary H. (Wood) Smith, Smith went to schools in Smithtown, New York. He attended Cornell University and earned a law degree in 1877. While there, in 1872 he and his roommate, Archibald Croswell Weeks, composed the lyrics to the song that would become Cornell's alma mater.

Smith was admitted to the New York bar in 1877, and began practicing law in Patchogue, New York in 1879. He married Lizzie L. Mott on November 24, 1881. He was the district attorney of Suffolk County in 1884 until he became a county judge in 1891.He was later elevated to the New York Supreme Court, representing the 2nd district in Brooklyn and was very active with the local school board. He and his wife are buried in the Cedar Grove Cemetery in Patchogue, New York. The Wilmont M. Smith Elementary School also known as  the. Bay Avenue School was built in 1908 in Patchogue and named for him. The school was demolished in the late 1960s and replaced by the current Bay Avenue Elementary.

  • What action did he take in relation to the 1904 Vanderbilt Cup Race?

On Friday, October 7, 1904,  Justice Wilmot Smith denied  an injunction by the People's Protective Association of Nassau County, a group opposed to running the race on public roads,  against the Board of Supervisors of Nassau County and the Automobile Association of America to stop the first Vanderbilt Cup Race. Accordingly, the race was allowed to be run on the following day.

Congrats and kudos to Art Kleiner for correctly solving the Mystery Foto of Justice Wilmot Moses Smith, the judge who did not stop the 1904 Vanderbilt Cup Race..


Howard Kroplick

Nailed to trees and telegraph poles or pasted to barns in the summer of 1904, posters from organizers of the Vanderbilt Cup Race announced the first international automobile competition to be held in the United States. In addition to promoting the Saturday, October 8, 1904, race date and the early 6:00 am start around the 30-mile course, the poster enumerated rules of conduct for crossing the public roads and monitoring the whereabouts of animals with a warning “chain your dogs and lock up your fowls!”  The poster drew the ire of many Nassau County farmers who used the roads to bring their goods to New York City.

The lure of an economic boon from thousands of free-spending visitors to the Long Island community proved incentive enough for Nassau County supervisors to approve the use of public roads for auto racing when they met on August 23, 1904. Unconvinced, however, were many farmers who still relied on horses for transportation and saw automobiles as playthings of the idle rich. Despite several legal attempts to stop the race, Nassau County supervisors gave their approval a few days before the Saturday race date.

Daily News, October 4, 1904

New York Times, October 5, 1904

New York Times, October 7, 1904

The World, October 7, 1904

The World, October 7, 1904

Kleiner's Korner (Submitted by Art Kleiner)

New York Times, October 8, 1904

May 6, 1908


Mar 26 2015 Ted 11:22 PM

I think you mentioned something about it on Tuesday night,darn it,if I can only remember.I’ll get back to you

Mar 30 2015 Art Kleiner 9:26 AM

Steve, thanks for this week’s photo.  After two misfires, finally came across the correct answer.  But I did learn a lot about a Patchogue resident name Fullerton as well as a Judge Jaycox. 

But Wilmot M. Smith is the correct answer.

Identify the gentleman:  Honorable Justice Wilmot M. Smith

What action did he take in relation to the 1904 Vanderbilt Cup Race?
Enabled the running of the race after it was being protested by the “People’s Protective Association”. 
NY Times - Oct. 8, 1904
“Justice Wilmot M. Smith, sitting in Special Term for Motions of the Supreme Court, Brooklyn, yesterday, denied the motion for an injunction against the Automobile Association of America and the Board of Supervisors of Nassau County, enjoining them from conducting the race for the Vanderbilt Cup.”

Mar 30 2015 frank femenias 11:53 AM

Stumped again,, I’ll guess RR man Alexander Turney Stewart

Mar 30 2015 frank femenias 12:02 PM

Can’t be Stewart who passed away in 1876, and not August Belmont. Good one Steve.

Mar 30 2015 brian d mccarthy 3:28 PM

This gentlemans face has been haunting me since Friday. Either I did’nt research this enough or too much, I’m just not coming up with anything. I perused various Patchogue history books at the library, in addition to internet searching. It’s possible that I came across his name, but not any of the photos I came across resembled him. It’s a mystery to me, Steve.

Mar 30 2015 Greg O. 10:51 PM

Geez Steve, you and Art really know how to bring a guy’s average down!!

I was on the right track with his ‘action’ but couldn’t come up with his name anywhere. Great photo this week!

Mar 31 2015 brian d mccarthy 12:31 PM

Very good, Art. I know this is all in fun. But there’s some comfort knowing that I’m not the only one who had a hard time with this. I live near the Sachem Public library. They have a well organized history room. And even though I didn’t solve this mystery, it’s never a wasted visit to the library.

Mar 31 2015 Art Kleiner 1:26 PM

Greg - sorry about that!  Good one, Steve.

Apr 01 2015 Steve Lucas 4:43 PM

I’m glad everyone had some fun with the Smith photo. Learning something new at least once a week keeps the old grey matter working.

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