Jan 16 2010

The Elusive Sterling Silver Locomobile Vanderbilt Cups

The small Locomobile Vanderbilt Cups have become one of the most collectible of Vanderbilia. A Locomobile Vanderbilt Cup radiator mascot (without the cap) was sold last night for $2,805.55 on Ebay surpassing the previous Ebay auction price of $2,550 sold on December 29, 2009.

Earlier this month Joel Finn, the prominent racing author and major collector of automobilia and vintage automobiles, provided this information concerning the different types of Locomobile Vanderbilt Cups as shown in the above photo:

The Locomobile piece was first made in Sterling Silver and given out as favors to the invited attendees at the Vanderbilt Cup victory dinner held at the Stratfield Hotel in Bridgeport, CT on November 9, 1908. These were never made available for sale to the general public. In March 1909, Locomobile began offering two different versions made in pewter to owners of their cars. When the cup was supplied with a radiator cap the price was $2.25. If the owner wanted a cup to install on his existing radiator cap the price was $1.50. Both prices included mailing.From a memo by the sales department in October 1910, it was stated that almost 900 had been sold to that point.

As a follow-up to Joel's comment, let's take a closer look at the 1908 Bridgeport banquet and the Locomobile Vanderbilt Cups. Remember to click on the images to enlarge them.


This was the official ticket to attend the banquet celebrating the officers of the Locomobile Company and the crew of the first American car to win the Vanderbilt Cup Race. The admission price was $5 equivalent to $100 today.


As shown in this photo, approximately 300 men attended the banquet.There is not one woman in the room.


A banquet brochure was placed on each table setting. Note the small bow on the left side.


The guest list included; the winning driver George Robertson and mechanican Glenn Ethridge, Locomobile officers, Bridgeport business owners, members of the automobile trade press and Vanderbilt Cup Race officers. Although listed as a guest, William K. Vanderbilt Jr. did not attend.


The huge 10 1/2 gallon Vanderbilt Cup made by Tiffany & Company was placed in the back of the room. But, were the the small four inch sterling silver Locomobile Vanderbilt Cups distributed before this official banquet photo was taken? Let's take a closer look at the tables.



As evidenced by the brochures on the plates and the uneaten rolls, close-ups of the tables reveal that the official photo was likely taken at the beginning of the banquet. But, no Locomobile Vanderbilt Cups can be seen.


In this close-up, a gentleman was reading the brochure just before he was asked to turn and look at the photographer. But, again, the elusive small Locomobile Vanderbilt Cup can not be found.


The automobile trade journals widely covered the banquet, including this November 12,1908 article published in The Automobile entitled "The Home Coming of the Victor".


Every detail of the reception was described even this song honoring George Robertson sung by guests to the tune of George M. Cohan's hit "Harrigan". But, no mention was made of the distribution of the Locomobile Vanderbilt Cups.

To date, I have not found visual evidence of the cups at the banquet or a mention of the cups in numerous 1908 reception articles. It is possible that the cups were distributed after the official photo was taken and journalists were told, for some unknown reason, not to mention them. In any case, the origins of the elusive sterling silver Locomobile Vanderbilt Cups are still very much a mystery.

January 18, 2010 Update: Joel Finn has provided new information concerning the cups in his comment below.


The history of the Locomobile Vanderbilt Cup radiator mascot is much clearer primarily due to this Locomobile brochure courtesy of Walter McCarthy.

Please leave a comment if you can further unravel the mystery of the sterling silver Locomobile Vanderbilt Cups.


Jan 17 2010 Joel Finn 11:01 AM

No mystery at all!

I have photos from the collection of Andrew Riker with views of the banquet taken from different angles. One shows the tables of guests on the left side of the room, which doesn’t appear in the large photo you normally see. Along the left wall is an approximately eight-foot long table with small boxes lined up, each wrapped in a silk ribbon with the Locomobile script repeated on it. Each box has a small card attached having an engraved salutation from S.T. Davis, the President of Locomobile, thanking each attendee by name for their support.

These were the egg cups and according to Andrew Riker’s hand-written diary covering those years, which I have, they were given out to the attendees as they left the banquet. As you know, having seen some of my Locomobile material, I also have Riker’s egg cup, the ribbon, the Davis card, numerous photos and other items related to this occasion.

I also have the original letter written by S.T. Davis on October 30, 1908, authorizing the purchase of 250 of these cups from the Forbes Silver Co. along with several sketches of varying designs.

I should note that all of these cups were made of Quadruple Plate silver. A limited number in Sterling Silver, the total not in any records I
have, were made for S.T. Davis, Riker, Robertson, Ethridge and a few others.

All for now.

Joel Finn

Jan 17 2010 Huntley Perry 8:49 PM

I grew up in Bridgeport, Conn. (1929-1951) and I remember seeing the Locomobile factory from Seaside Park. The last I heard, the facility was making shirts. Of course that was many years ago. I don’t know if it is still standing. I haven’t been back to Bridgeport for many years.

I was back for a high school reunion (60th, Roger Ludlow in Fairfield, CT) last year where I learned that the Bridgeport City Trust Co. building was being converted into condos. I had done my banking there for many years; my late father, a dentist, had his office on the 5th floor; and during WWII there was an airplane spotting post on top as it was the tallest building in town. I spent many hours there as an airplane spotter. See “Flying Manual”, Fawcett Book 102, page 122.

Many changes have taken place in that area over the years.

Jan 17 2010 Howard Kroplick 11:02 PM

Hi Joel:

Thanks so much for helping to further unravel…and solve the mystery! Much appreciated!


Jan 24 2010 Howard Kroplick 12:11 PM


Thanks for the Bridgeport stories!


Jan 11 2020 Bob Eves 3:12 PM

I have a forbes silver co quadruple 1048 ,Vanderbilt cup 1908

Howard Kroplick

Although the Locomobile trophies were made from different materials, they all have the same markings on their bases.

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