Nov 02 2015

A Salute to the Mets & Mystery Foto #44 Solved: A Gift to George Robertson From Peter Helck

The owner of this important Peter Helck painting forwarded these images for this weekend's Mystery Foto.

Mystery Foto questions:

  • Which race was being depicted in the painting?

1908 Vanderbilt Cup Race

  • Identify the race cars, drivers and mechanicians

#16 Locomobile driven by George Robertson (driver) and Glenn Ethridge (mechanician)

#4 Chadwick driven by Willie Haupt (driver) and E.A. Lindquist (mechanician)

  • What were possible locations for this scene?

This painting was not based on a specific photo. Left turns on the public road section of the 1908 course included:

  • Round Swamp Road on to Manetto Hill Road (now Old Bethpage Road).
  • Woodbury Road on to Jericho Turnpike- The Woodbury Turn
  • Jericho Turnpike on to Ellison Road
  • Who did Peter Helck give this painting to and why?

As indicated in the lower left section, Peter Helck gave this painting to George Robertson, the winning driver for the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup Race, on October 24, 1938, the 30th anniversary of his victory.

  • Jerry Helck, the son of Peter Helck, has told me that this painting was important for his father's career. Can you explain why?

This painting was used as part of the Peter Helck's successful pitch to Esquire for his 1944 series of paintings in the magazine. Moreover, it served as a preliminary painting for Helck's "Robertson Comes Through" which was featured on the cover of his book "The Checkered Flag."

Jerry Helck: "There are references to this particular painting, including Peter Heck's request that George Robertson make it available to the Art Director at Esquire as part of his campaign to persuade them to do the series. In another letter he acknowledges that it was further development of this painting that became ROBERTSON COMES THROUGH, no surprise."

Congrats to Chuck Rudy, Frank Femenias, Edgar Masters ,Greg O. and Ariejan Bos for identifying "Old 16" during the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup Race. Kudos to Chuck Rudy (See below Chuck's Clues) and Ariejan Bos for linking this painting to Helck's Esquire series and his "Robertson Comes Through" classic


Howard Kroplick


Lower left corner: "To George Robertson From Peter Helck 10-24-1908"

"Robertson Comes Through", Painted especially for Esquire magazine by Peter Helck in 1944

The cover of Peter Helck's The Checkered Flag

1908 Vanderbilt Cup Race Course

Chuck's Clues (Submitted by Chuck Rudy, Jr.)

Chuck Rudy, Jr.: "Here is the similar piece I was referencing…..happens to be on eBay.  The angle is similar, but the detail appears greater in this photo with a different pursuer."

Congratulations to The New York Mets

Hats off to the New York Mets for an outstanding thrilling season. After Curt Granderson's first inning homer, Fox-TV had a great shot of me waving my Met flag.


Oct 31 2015 Chuck Rudy 6:30 PM

The piece is very similar to one of his works titled “Robertson Comes Through”, the #16 is obviously the Locomobile of George Robertson and mechanician Glenn Etheridge winning the 1908 race after the Chadwick broke.  The other car is the #4 Big-Six Chadwick of Willie Haupt with EA Lindquist as mechanician.  The other similar painting also has a sign reading “Choice lots and acreage-inquire at Hotel” the location is possibly behind Krug’s Hotel, but near a hotel of some type.  Parking was $5 to see the race from your car. 

Since Helck first visited the 1906 Vanderbilt race perhaps this was his first commissioned, or sold piece of the Vanderbilt Cup by him, and perhaps it was given to Robertson for winning the race with an American auto…..which is all a guess.

Oct 31 2015 Ted 10:08 PM

The #16 is a Packard called Gray Fox and I think it is in the 1904 race. I also think the painting is the Packard Cormorant Silver Anniversary

Nov 01 2015 frank femenias 8:40 AM

Great action painting. At first glance this reminded me of the mystery below, the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup Race. So I’m betting on the winning Old 16 Locomobile (Robertson/Ethridge ) heading south on Ellison Ave after taking on the No.4 Chadwick (Haupt/Lindquist) at the Westbury curve from Jericho Tpke (background fits the description), with the spectators obliviously standing in the most dangerous spot on the course. This scene was not the final homestretch because the Chadwick finished 10th , though the painting could’ve been used that way.
This painting may have been important for Peter Helck’s career because the image was distributed throughout the media at the time, becoming popular and iconic for depicting the first American car to win the international Vanderbilt Cup Race.
Also possible that Helck gave the painting to George Robertson for his major achievement.

Nov 01 2015 Howard Kroplick 12:40 PM

From Edgar Masters:
Hi Howard – I enjoyed seeing the mystery photo; here are some comments, subject to errors:

The race depicted is the Vanderbilt Cup Race held on Long Island in c. 1905/6.
The car is a Locomobile and one of the operators was George Robertson(?)
The location is a famous turn on the course.
Peter Helck became a famous commercial artist doing ads in the Saturday Evening Post and many other magazines and this painting was one of his signature works.

For years Peter Helck had a home in Boston Corners, NY, a hamlet about five miles south of Copake Falls, NY, where I live. Decades ago the Helcks came to visit my parents, driving this car, which Peter owned for years, to our residence. As we live at the top of a long hill, to this day I recall the roar of Old Number 16 rumbling up the hill to park in our driveway. What fun to see it up close! The next day my job was to remove the oil and grease spills from the ground over which the car was parked.

When Peter died, I believe the car was sold to the Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI, and I believe I saw it there when attending one of the CCCA Classics in the area.

Thank you for recalling these memories. Edgar.

Nov 01 2015 Greg O. 11:26 PM

Which race was being depicted in the painting?
1908 Vanderbilt Cup Race

Identify the race cars, drivers and mechanicians
#16 Locomobile/George Robertson -Winner of the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup Race. Mechanician: Glenn Ethridge

#4 Chadwick/Willie Haupt
Mechanician: E.A. Lindquist

What were possible locations for this scene?
Left onto Jericho Tpke from Woodbury Rd or the hard left off Jericho Tpk onto Westbury Rd in Westbury

Who did Peter Helck give this painting to and why?
Jerry Helck, the son of Peter Helck, has told me that this painting was important for his father’s career. Can you explain why?

Looking forward to hearing the history on this one…

Nov 02 2015 Ariejan Bos 5:40 PM

This scene, painted by Peter Helck in 1938, shows Robertson during the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup being pursued by Willie Haupt in Chadwick ‘Black Bess’. The 1944 painting by Helck for the magazine Esquire with the title ‘Robertson Comes Through’ clearly is based on this one, although the Chadwick has been replaced by the Isotta of Herb Lytle, and much more background has been added. Best location for the scene seems to be Woodbury Turn.
As indicated on the painting, Helck gave it to Robertson. Maybe it did help in the purchase of the Locomobile racer, which he acquired in 1941? But I doubt if this could have had any influence on his career.

Dec 27 2017 Bill Zimmer 10:49 AM

I read somewhere else that the Locomobile is in the Ford Museum….but where is the !944 painting? Is it with the car??
Howard Kroplick

Old 16 is in the Henry Ford Museum.

Dec 27 2017 Bill Zimmer 2:54 PM

Whatever happened to the painting done for Esquire in 1944?

Howard Kroplick

No sure what happened to the original final painting.

Dec 10 2018 Bill Zimmer 5:06 PM

Does anyone know what happened to the painting done for Esquire and was more than one done?

Leave a Comment