Jan 26 2010

The 1906 Accident That Changed Long Island Auto Racing

Tony, the powerful French Hotckiss car involved in the accident was driven by Elliot Shepard, Jr., a 30-year old American and William K. Vanderbilt Jr's cousin. As described in several publications, the accident occurred near the Long Island Railroad crossing on Jericho Turnpike in Mineola:

Horseless Age10/10/1906:

"The 130 hp Hotchkiss car, driven by Elliot F. Shepard, representing France, struck a man named Gruner near Krug's corner and killed him instantly. The car skidded into the crowd that pressed upon the course just east of the railroad crossing near Mineola, and a short distance from the dangerous turn at Krug's corner. "

The Automobile 10/11/1906:

"In the middle of the race, when the excitement was at its height, a spectator deliberately walked into the road in front of a flying car, undeterred by the warnings of the officials and the cry of "Car coming!" and was almost torn to pieces. The accident occurred at the beginning of the straight after Krug's Corner was turned, just where the cars gather speed for a wild dash of three miles over a straight course to the grandstand...Just beyond the railroad crossing a man appeared in the road ahead of the Hotchkiss car. Shepard swung, but the left wheel struck the man, throwing him twenty feet into a crowd of women, one of whom was knocked down by the body."

Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal October 1906:

"The one individual killed outright on the course was Curt L. Gruner, of Passaic, New Jersey, who was hit by the Hotchkiss, driven by Shepard, on the Jericho Turnpike, about on-eight of a mile east of Krug's Corner, thrown some 60 feet away and picked up dead, his skull and both arms and both legs broken."

New York Times 10/7/1906:

"Mr. Shepard was driving a 130-hp Hotchkiss car at the rate of seventy miles per hour at the place where the cup course crossed the Long Island Railroad track at Krug's Corner, near Mineola, when the accident happened."


The accident was apparently not captured in any photograph. One newspaper printed this illustration of the Hotchkiss hitting Curt Gruner, a 33-year old mill foreman.

Several other 1906 cars were photographed at the location of the accident. Note the parked train in the background to the right and the large number of spectators dangerously crowding the course.


#3 Mercedes driven by Camille Jenatzy.


#8 Fiat driven by Felice Nazzaro.


#14 Haynes driven by John Haynes

Not realizing he struck Gruner, Elliot Shepard continued at speed down Jericho Turnpike to the grandstand where he battled Duray's #18 Lorraine-Dietrich. This moment was captured in this 1906 race film. As a direct result of the fatal accident, Vanderbilt and his associates immediately began plans to develop a privately owned speedway... which became the Long Island Motor Parkway.



February 3, 2010 Update: A 2010 photo of the Mineola railroad crossing on Jericho Turnpike.


Jul 08 2015 Tom Houston 11:04 AM

I am writing a book about the Shepard and Vanderbilt families and I’m looking for images of Elliott F Shepard and William K Vanderbilt.  I was wondering where you found the drawing of EFS hitting the spectator - it was a significant moment and I’ve been looking for something like that.  It would be great for my book.  Also, you seem to have some good shots of EFS and WKV racing that I’m also interested in.  I would love to discuss further.
Tom Houston - .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

From Howard Kroplick

Tom, I will try to find out the orignal source. Best of luck with the book.

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