Dec 27 2014 Exclusive:The 1908 Race Album of William Luttgen & William K. Vanderbilt, Jr.

William Luttgen participated in four Vanderbilt Cup Races, three as a driver (1904, 1906, and 1908) and one as a mechanician (1905). Today, I met with his grandson Robert Luttgen of Key Biscayne, Florida, who brought along a rare photo album of the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup Race.

I am pleased that Robert has agreed for to exclusively post the 41 photos from the album over the next six months.


Howard Kroplick

The album was created by Spooner & Wells, Inc. for William K. Vanderbilt, Jr., who owned the #5 Mercedes which participated in the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup Race. According to Robert Luttgen: "Vanderbilt gave a copy of the album to my grandfather."

The album contains 41 photos associated with the 1908 race, many have not been published before.

Selected Photos form the 1908 Album

William K. Vanderbilt Jr. and his wife Virginia sitting in their "Vanderbilt" Renault.

Driver William Luttgen (left) and his mechanician  Pfeiffer. Luttgen (1877-1965) was the last living participant of the 1904 Vanderbilt Cup Race.

The #5 Mercedes on the starting line.

Willie K. checking out his racer at a servicestop at the grandstand pits.

Luttgen on the Motor Parkway after crossing the Newbridge Road Bridge.

The huge crowd watching the #5 Mercedes starting its next to last lap of the race. William Luttgen finished a very respectable fourth.

Robert Luttgen paid a visit to see and hear the Alco Black Beast.

Robert Luttgen and Howard Kroplick with the Alco Black Beast.

Film "1906 Vanderbilt Cup Race"

William Luttgen and his mechanician Marx can be seen at the 19 second and 50 second marks of this 1906 film. Current YouTube viewership: 6,157.


Dec 27 2014 Ted 11:56 PM

I had to take a break from the mystery photo this week, I was on it for about 2 hours, I think I narrowed it down to 3 bridges, but they’re so near one another. I can’t tell which one it is, very easy to make a mistake, I’ll get back to it tomorrow, I had enough of it today. That film of the Vanderbilt Race was great, that hairpin turn is the best, it shows more of what a struggle it was to make that turn, how they bounce and slide around it

Dec 28 2014 S. Berliner, III 7:21 PM

Sorry but that album cover was NOT for the contents, the race; it was for the 1908 AAA Tour, a VERY different and far more extensive event (presumably the “Glidden” Tour of July 1908.  Your cover may be of great value in its own right!  Regardless, what a find!  Sam, III

From Howard Kroplick

Sam III, excellent observation. All the photos in the album relate to the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup Race. My assumption is that Spooner & Wells had a spare blank leather 1908 AAA Tour album and used it for these photos.

Dec 28 2014 Robert Luttgen 10:13 PM

I have wanted to make archive quality digital photos of this album for some time.  The passing of my father in October made me realize that I had waited long enough.  The problem is I know little to nothing about the correct way to preserve this sort of historic material.

I guessed that if anyone knew about preserving historical documents of this type, it would be Howard.  So I made the best copies that I could and sent it all off in an email.  To my surprise Howard told me that the album contained photos that he had not seen before.  Below each photo is captioning that has proven to be rather useful as well.

Howard picked me up at the train station in Rosyln, and took me to see a professional with experience in the digital preservation of historical photographs.  I was impressed enough to leave the album with them for digital reproduction in a “lossless” TIFF format. 

While I want to make sure that all the descendants of William Luttgen get copies of the album, I also want to make these photos available to anyone who might be interested in downloading them.  I can’t think of anyone better to help me achieve this than Howard, and I appreciate that he has chosen to tell the album’s story on his website.

I was also fortunate that Howard had the time to give me the royal Vanderbilt Cup tour.  While much of the course has been lost to development, an amazing amount is still preserved.  Of course the highlight of my tour was a stop at Sam’s Garage where the Black Beast is being worked on.  Sam is one of those rare geniuses with the skills necessary to keep an antique car like this running.  To my astonishment, Howard told Sam to fire the Black Beast up.  What a treat - I can’t thank Howard enough.

Like you, I am looking forward to learning what Howard has discovered about the photo album.  Hope everyone enjoys it.

Robert Luttgen
From Howard Kroplick

Bob, it was a real fun day! I wish you and the entire Luttgen family a happy and healthy 2015!

Dec 29 2014 rich 2:01 PM

i too someday hope to hear the black beast purr, my great grand father frank lee was the mechanician with harry grant,,, go figure, grant and lee…. how ironically iconic.
From Howard Kroplick

Anytime you are on Long Island, send me an email at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) .

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