Jul 10 2017

Mystery Foto #27 Solved:Massapequa-Hicksville Road Bridge During the 1909 One-Gallon Efficiency Test

Brian McCarthy challenged you to identify the Motor Parkway bridge that was captured during the 1909 New York Economy Contest.

Mystery Foto questions:

  • Identify the Motor Parkway bridge and the orientation of the photographer. Provide a rationale. Hint: Check the telephone poles.

The automobile has just passed under the Massepequa-Hicksville Road Motor Parkway Bridge looking north.


  • The 4-bar telephones poles
  • The railroad track in front of the automobile
  • The matching dark patterns on the concrete embankment
  • The 1909 contest course went from Hicksville to Massapequa

What was the New York Economy Contest? When was it held in 1909?

The 1909 New York Economy Contest or One Gallon Efficiency Test was part of the Second New York Automobile Carnival held from April 26 to May 7, 1909.  The carnival was organized by the New York Automobile Trade Association. The carnival the Fort George Hill Climb, Jamaica Speed trials on Hillside Avenue, a manufacturers's display day, a carnival parade and the one-gallon efficiency contest.

What was a major finding in the 1909 New York Economy Contest?

"Economy" was measured by the distance that the automobile travelled on one-gallon of gas multiplied by the total weight of the automobile with passengers.  The class winners were determined by the highest "pound-miles". The overall winner of the 20 entrants was an 18-HP Franklin that travelled 35.8 miles with a total weight of 2,880 pounds for a grand score of 103,104 pound miles.

Bonus: Identify the automobiles in the photo.

The automobile on the right was the winning #1 4-cylinder 18-HP Franklin automobile. The unidentified automobile on the left was likely an official's automobile or press car.

Comments (12)

Congrats to Greg O., Steve Lucas, Tim Ivers,  and Brian McCarthy for identifying the Massapequa-Hicksville Road Motor Parkway Bridge. Kudos to Greg O. Steve Lucas, Frank Mendyk and Ariejan Bos for identifying the winning Franklin.

More documentation and images from the 1909 New York Automobile Carnival will be posted later this week.


Howard Kroplick


Massapequa-Hickville Road Motor Parkway Bridge

A view of the bridge under construction. Note the 4-bar telephone poles and the Central Railroad track south of the bridge.

A view from the bridge during the 1909 or 1910 Vanderbilt Cup Race. Looking north down Massapequa-Hicksville Road.

Note: The similar dark patterns in the concrete of the right side bridge abutment. Submitted by Greg O.

Merrick Avenue Motor Parkway Bridge. Note the 2-bar telephone poles. Submitted by Frank Femenias.

Merrick Avenue Motor Parkway Bridge: Then and Now. Submitted by Frank Femenias.

The Second New York Automobile Carnival

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 18, 1909. Submitted by Art Kleiner.

New York Times, May 8, 1909. Submitted by Art Kleiner.

Motor Age, May 13, 1909. Submitted by Ariejan Bos.

The Course for the One-Gallon Efficiency Test

New York Times, May 7, 1909. Submitted by Art Kleiner.

The start of the contest at the headquarters of the Automobile Club of America on 54th Street in Manhattan.

The #1 Franklin at the ACA Headquarters. Submitted by Frank Femenias.

The ACA Headquarters on West 54th and 5th Avenue in 1907.

The course of the contest including "Hicksville to Massapequa". Submitted by Art Kleiner.

The #5 Buick at the newly opened Queensborough Bridge. Submitted by Frank Femenias.

A 7-HP Brush automobile passing an official's car at Krug's Corner in Mineola. Note: The "Vanderbilt Cup Course" sign.


Jul 07 2017 Michael LaBarbera 9:24 AM

Looks like Merrick Avenue bridge at the Meadowbrook Lodge Entrance looking north (the telephone poles still stand there). I believe the economy race was to see how many miles per gallon different cars including taxis would maximize in efficiency.

Jul 07 2017 Greg O. 1:48 PM

Identify the Motor Parkway bridge and the orientation of the photographer. Provide a rationale.
The Merrick Ave parkway bridge in Westbury/East Meadow looking North.

What was the New York Economy Contest? When was it held in 1909?
A 1 gallon fuel contest sponsored by the New York Automobile Trade Association on May 8th 1909

What was a major finding in the 1909 New York Economy Contest?
The efficiency of motor vehicles

Bonus: Identify the automobiles in the photo.
Franklin, winning at a distance of just over 36 miles.

Jul 08 2017 Greg O. 4:16 PM

I need to correct my earlier guess. Please disregard it.

This is looking North through the Massapequa Road bridge. I was even able to match up patterns in the concrete of the right side bridge abutment and confirm it.
My guess stands for the Franklin, winner of the contest at just over 36 miles.

Jul 08 2017 frank femenias 4:31 PM

Fantastic Foto Brian, haven’t seen this one before. This could be the bridge that once crossed Merrick Ave (Whaleneck Road) in Westbury. Photographer is facing north, cars heading south, Old Country Road is straight ahead past the bridge, Stewart Ave is behind the camera. The Franklin auto in front is right at the dirt entrance of the Meadowbrook Lodge on the left, just before the pole. Not sure if the parked auto participated in the contest but other models included Thomas, Renault, and Buick.  Eisenhower Park today is on the right, Micro Center on the left after the bridge. There is another photo similar to this one that show fewer crossarms on the poles. Try squeezing today’s Merrick Ave traffic through that opening!

NY Economy Contest: May 1909?, sponsored by the New York Automobile Trade Association as part of its second annual automobile carnival, a one gallon efficiency contest. Don’t know what they found but cars in 1900 were getting 8mph @ 35mpg.

Howard, sending attachments and looking forward to this week’s answers.

Jul 09 2017 Steve Lucas 7:52 PM

I think we’re looking north along Massapequa - Hicksville Road as it goes under the LIMP because it’s the only bridge I could find with LIRR tracks just south of it and the telephone poles on the west side of the road. The NY Economy Contest was a one gallon gasoline efficiency test which was run as part of the 2nd. annual Automobile Carnival sponsored by the NY Automobile Trade Association. The carnival ran from April 26 to May 1, 1909. I don’t know what the finding was but I’ll guess the obvious: the heavier the car, the more gasoline it used to cover the same distance. I think the car in the foreground is a Franklin and the other could be an Apperson.

Jul 09 2017 Tim Ivers 8:38 PM

Hicksville Road looking north under the LIMP bridge.
Poles running north along west side of Hicksville Road,
Pole on this side of bridge part of main lines running parallel to LIMP.
The Economy Contest provided that each vehicle be given one
gallon of gas and track how far it got.

Jul 10 2017 Brian D McCarthy 12:35 AM

Hello to all. I hope this Mystery Foto captured interest. When I came across this image, the bridge was described as a RR bridge. That’s no RR bridge. We all know a LIMP bridge by now lol.

*Identity of LIMP bridge/Orientation of Photographer/Rationale:  Initially, 2 pkwy bridges came to mind ( Wantagh Ave and Massapequa Hicksville Rd ). I believe it’s the Massapequa Hicksville Rd Pkwy bridge, photo looking north. The oldest image I’ve seen ( so far ) of the Wantagh Ave Pkwy bridge is dated 1935. There is a pole line on the W/S, but not Telegraph type ( it may have been in the earlier 1900’s ). The 1935 image is facing north as well, but there’s a curve seen in the distance. I don’t see this curve in the Mystery Foto. And there’s a telegraph/utility pole just S/O the Pkwy bridge in the Mystery Foto. There’s no pole in view just S/O the 1935 Wantagh Ave Pkwy bridge. So Massapequa Hicksville Rd fits best.

*NY Economy Contest? Date it was held in?:  It was a friendly ( I think ) competition amongst different auto manufacturers. Each auto was filled with 1 gallon of fuel. The auto that traveled the furthest distance was the winner. Every auto competing had a SEALED FUEL CAN for their return trip “home”. An OBSERVER accompanied the contesting driver to ensure that the SEALED FUEL CAN remained SEALED until the auto completely ran out of fuel. An additional auto kept up with the competing auto, also. This additional auto would record the distance of all competing autos. I believe this contest was in May 1909.

*Major Finding in this Contest?:  No answer for this. I’m sure some of you will know.

*Identify Automobile Makes?:  Not sure. I’m fairly sure that the auto in front approaching the Central RR tracks is competing, the auto just beyond is ready to record the distance of the competing auto.    Good Luck to All,  BDM

Jul 10 2017 Art Kleiner 9:32 AM

Could it be Carman Avenue Bridge looking west? 

The Economy Contest was part of the 2nd New York Automobile Carnival originally scheduled to be held the week of April 26, 1909.  Due to bad weather certain events were pushed back and the Economy Contest was held on May 7, 1909.  This was a contest to determine “whether the quantity of gasoline a car consumes is a large or small factor” (source - NY Times, May 7, 1909) on a per car mile and ton mile, with prizes awarded for the latter. 

Also measured how far one gallon can of gas would take a loaded car.

The initial finding was that the cost of transporting eighty-eight people (seven tons) would be approximately one and one half mills per mile per person.

Jul 10 2017 Art Kleiner 9:41 AM

Second entry for the bridge - Merrick Avenue

Jul 10 2017 Frank Mendyk 8:10 PM

The location of the photo is on Wantagh Ave. looking north towards the LIMP Wantagh Ave. bridge (#42).  You can observe the power/telephone poles on the left hand side of Wantagh Ave which are in the photo taken on 5/24/35.  You also can observe the tracks of the LIRR Central branch in front of the bridge.

The New York Economy Test was a one gallon efficiency test sponsored by the New York Trade Association as part of it’s 2nd annual automobile carnival.
The automobiles pictured in the photo are (1909?) Franklin’s.

Jul 10 2017 frank femenias 9:34 PM

The mystery Franklin car wins the J.W. Willy’s Cup with most points, in a 4 cylinder air cooled engine carrying 5 passengers, covering 36.6 miles on one gallon of gas over Long Island roads. What route was used for the contest? A Cadillac traveled the furthest with 42.2 miles, but lacked the points to win.

Second thoughts, it can’t be Merrick Ave, the poles are different, and it’s not Carman Ave. Out of time so wild guessing with Newbridge Rd looking north

Jul 10 2017 Howard Kroplick 10:08 PM

From Ariejan Bos
This photo was taken during the New York Economy Test, held on May 10,
1909 on the roads of Long Island. The photo shows the winning Franklin (with no.1) after having passed under what could be Merrick Avenue bridge (I’m not 100% sure, because the electricity poles differ from the ones, which were present at the time of the construction of this bridge). The other car on the side of the road (also a Franklin) is a press car. A description of the test is being given in an article in Motor Age of May 13, 1909.

Jul 10 2017 frank femenias 11:29 PM

Ugh! I can’t believe I can figure this bridge out. Fantastic Foto Brian!!!

Jul 10 2017 Brian D McCarthy 11:47 PM

Now that it’s not a Mystery no more, I came across this image on the “Detroit Public Library Digital Collections” website. Decided to search: “Railroads,NY” to possibly come across images of the LIRR/LIMP together. This image was described as “Autos passing under RR bridge”. Like I said in my first comment….That’s no RR bridge! Hope you all had fun with it.  BDM

Jul 10 2017 frank femenias 11:49 PM

Amazing observation by all! This conclusion is truly amazing!!

Jul 14 2017 Tom 1:55 PM

Great pics and facts!

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