Dec 04 2010

The Mystery Segments in the Film “Old 16- An American Legend”

The November 14th post -1997 Exhibit and Film “Old 16- An American Legend”- recorded the second highest daily viewership in history. The primary attraction was the exhibit's film on Old 16 narrated by Paul Newman.


The film by Academy Award winner Sue Marx incorporated footage of the 1904 Vanderbilt Cup Race from the Library of Congress, photos from the 1904, 1906 and 1980 races and a 1997 film of Old 16 being driven around Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. The big mystery in the film was the four moving segments showing spectators in a grandstand. I have never seen this crowd scene in any Vanderbilt Cup Race film. In this still from the Old 16 film, William K. Vanderbilt Jr. can be seen in the middle of the photo wearing a cap and goggles.


Another still from the film provides clues to the year of the grandstand film clip. Note the pole and string in front of the grandstand.

I believe these four photos of the press box and grandstand of the 1904 Vanderbilt Cup Race solve the mystery:


In this 1904 trade journal photo, William K. Vanderbilt, Jr. can be seen standing in the grandstand (wearing a cap and his goggles) speaking to Mrs Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt (wearing a white hat and dress). Also note the pole and string on the left.


This photo shows that the pole and string held the 1904 Start-Finish banner.


The relative positions of the press box (left), Start-Finish banner and grandstand (right) are shown here.


Finally, the American Mutoscope & Biograph camera can be seen on the roof of the press box as Willie K. crosses the course.

The four 1904 photos match the grandstand segments in the Old 16 film. Accordingly, I believe the grandstand crowd scenes in the film were taken from a previously unseen version of the 1904 film shot by American Mutoscope & Biograph cameramen on top of the press box. Here are the four scenes edited together:

In response to many requests, Sue Marx has provided a longer version of the Old 16 film including expanded segments of the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup Race winner being driven around Greenfield Village in 1997.

Links to related posts on

Archives: Old 16 Locomobile

Archives: 1908 Vanderbilt Cup Race

Archives: 1904 Vanderbilt Cup Race

Crowd Scenes


Dec 05 2010 Chris Osborne 10:43 AM

Howard, I love your dedication to research and paying attention to detail!  I often spend hours on that before I start a painting, and at the later stages while developing more of the background scene, particularly in my painting of Buddy Bolden and the 1905 Cadillac in New Orleans at the turn of the century.  You do wonderful work, I am inspired!

Dec 06 2010 Howard Kroplick 7:54 PM

Hi Chris:

Your feedback is much appreciated!


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