Dec 02 2019

Mystery Foto #48 Solved: Marion Spooner Photographed at the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup Race

This adorable holiday Mystery Foto was taken by a professional photographer.

Mystery Foto questions:

  • Who was the photographer? Provide a rationale. Hint (11/30/19): The photographer is related to the child.

The photographer was F. (Frank) Ed Spooner. Along with Nathan Lazarnick, Spooner was a pioneering photographer of early automobiles and racing including the Vanderbilt Cup Races. Spooner went on to establish the photograph company Spooner & Wells.

  • Identify the girl.

The girl was Marion Spooner, the three-year old daughter of F. Ed Spooner. This photo and  687 other Spooner & Wells photos have been posted online at the Detroit Public Library's National Automotive History Collection.

Comments (7)

Congrats and kudos to Ariejan Bos and Brian McCarthy for correctly identifying  Marion Spooner.


Howard Kroplick


Other Photos from the Detroit Public Library's National Automotive History Collection

Marion Spooner

F. Ed Spooner (left)

Spooner fooling around in 1910.

Spooner (left) and Nathan Lazarnick (right)


Nov 29 2019 frank femenias 10:27 PM

What a cutie, OMG!, but I’m going to wildly guess this mystery as George Robertson’s daughter, sitting in the driver’s seat of Old 16, after he won the first VCR race by the US, at the “winner’s circle,” if there was any. I didn’t research the steering wheel and its levers - it would’ve spoiled the experience. I hope I’m right. ADORABLE indeed! Happy Holidays to all!

Dec 01 2019 A. Bos 7:03 AM

This is Marion (on this photo misread as Marian) Spooner, the daughter of F. Ed. Spooner and photographed by her father at the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup race. Spooner was a journalist and photographer, who like Nathan Lazarnick was one of the pioneers in capturing early automobilism in photographs. Starting from Chicago he was later on a partner with Wells to form the famous Spooner & Wells, Inc., located in Detroit and New York. Unfortunately it seems to be almost impossible to get insight in the life story of Spooner, who seems to have been an amateur cyclist before becoming a photographer. The role of Wells is also unknown to me, as only Spooner’s role comes up in all reports.  Spooner was e.g. the passenger in the first Glidden Tour in 1904 with driver Dwight Huss, famous Oldsmobile pioneer driver. During the transcontinental race in 1905 between two Oldsmobiles, the Old Scout and the Old Steady, Spooner and Huss formed a team again and in the Old Scout they won in a time of 44 days, beating the Old Steady by a week. Spooner & Wells were active not only in car reports for journals and car magazines, but also in corporate publicity and advertisements.
Marion is sitting at the wheel of a Jackson, possibly the same car in which her father was present at the American Grand Prize. The car is probably the new 1909 model E tourabout.
Both attached photos from the DPL-archive.

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Dec 01 2019 Rich 11:14 AM

...don’t know, but love the photo!

Dec 01 2019 Brian D McCarthy 3:07 PM

The photographer was her dad, Frank Spooner. Her name is Marian. I’m submitting a 1910 census record below that shows Charles Wells, a friend & coworker of Frank- ‘Spooner & Wells’, resided with the Spooner family in New Jersey. Frank’s occupation is ‘Manager of a Newspaper’, and Charles is ‘Agent’ of the Newspaper’.

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Dec 01 2019 Steve Lucas 5:32 PM

Could that be Consuelo Vanderbilt, almost 5 years old at the time and daughter of Willie K.? Maybe one of the Spooner and Wells photographers was related? Or maybe the photographer was Gladys Roosevelt? Maybe she was a distant cousin? All guesses and running out of time.

Dec 01 2019 S. Berliner, III 6:24 PM

Hmm.  That is unmistakably my late baby sister (and I certainly should know her) except for one leetle detail - she was only born in 1941!  She drove at an early age, but still - - - .  Uncanny.  Sam, III

Dec 02 2019 Dick Gorman 4:10 PM

Mystery Foto #48… I will go out on a limb here and say the adorable child is Muriel Vanderbilt Willie K’s daughter. She would be about the right age as the child seen in this photo. If it is her the photographer might be Willie K himself.
That’s all I’ve got.

Dec 02 2019 frank femenias 11:42 PM

Thanks Howard, this mystery was a first for me. I’ve never seen before any personal images of Spooner, nor Lazarnick, only their remarkable and extensive work - finally both now captured on the other side of the camera! Now, where’s Wells? Great stuff!

Dec 03 2019 S, Berliner, III 8:32 AM

Even ten years older, the resemblance is clear.  Familialy, this goes from bad to worse - that little boy stole my father’s hat!  [That’s my grand., great-grand., and Dad., ca. 1904]  Sam, III

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Dec 03 2019 S. Berliner, III 7:18 PM

Gotcha, Frank!  Ask and it shall be given - Fred. Spooner (left) and C. S. Wells (right)!  If you want to call them, their phone number is 3472-3 (where - NYC?).  :ยท)  Sam, III

Dec 03 2019 frank femenias 10:08 PM

Sam - Your sis is gorgeous too. Hope I was able to improve the 1904 photo. I’m curious how it compares after on this webpage.

Dec 04 2019 frank femenias 6:16 PM

Thanx Sam!

Dec 04 2019 S. Berliner, III 11:09 PM

You’re very welcome, Frank.  Thought you might like that one.  Thank YOU!  I didn’t bother following that business card further but I could if anyone wants to know badly enough.  Also, both the DPL and the LoC have endless more S&W pix (not my thing).  Further, I rather doubt there was an “F. Ed Spooner”; that’s far more likely “Fred. Spooner”, as he, himself, put it.  Hey; that phone was in NYC per attached stamp on the back of a photo.  Sam, III

Dec 04 2019 S. Berlner, III 11:21 PM

Ran across more (‘nuf?) - NYC - definitely.  Sam,  III

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Dec 05 2019 frank femenias 2:09 AM

The enhanced photo helped a bit. As always, great stuff! Thank you gentlemen for keeping the historic roadway alive!

Dec 05 2019 frank femenias 7:42 PM

Neat, Sam. 1931 Broadway, today’s Lincoln Center!

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