Nov 24 2010

Willie K’s Record-Breaking Hill Climb on Thanksgiving Day 1903

In the early 1900s, people did not flock to Manhattan on Thanksgiving to watch the floats and balloons on Broadway, but thousands came to West Orange, New Jersey to watch cars race up Eagle Rock. The Automobile Club of New Jersey first sponsored races for various classes of automobiles here in November 1901. From 1902 to 1905, the Eagle Rock Hill Climbs were held annually on Thanksgiving.

The almost one-mile course was a real challenge for early automobiles. The twist and turns of the course featured an elevation change of 384 feet with an average grade climb of 7.9%

The 1903 Eagle Rock Hill Climb was notable for the record-breaking time of William K. Vanderbilt Jr. in his 60-HP Mors. The January 1904 issue of Motor described his winning performance:

If danger lurks to an unusual degree in motor competition, the extraordinary risk is never more apparent than in a full speed rush up a difficult incline posessing abrupt turns and an uncertain surface.

Appearing on the scene in an unostentatious manner came a representative of the Vanderbilt family, William K., Jr., who quickly established a new record for the climb and one which remained unbroken during all Thanksgiving Day.

Mr. Vanderbilt electrified the onlookers with his record breaking climb, emphasizing anew his daring and wonderful skill as a driver of excess power motor racing craft.

Over 5,000 people watched the 1903 Eagle Rock Hill Climb. Several spectators are seen here congratulating Willie K. after he shattered the hill climb record with a time of one minute and 36 3/4 seconds.Check out Willie K.'s spectacular fur coat!

Links to related posts on

Index: William K.Vanderbilt, Jr.

Happy Thanksgiving!


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