Nov 23 2010

Upclose: The Vanderbilt Cup Trophy in 2002

The first international automobile road race needed an extraordinary symbol of its significance. The $2,500 Vanderbilt Cup, designed by Tiffany & Company, filled the bill. After weeks of discussions, Vanderbilt felt confident enough the race would become a reality that he ordered designs for the trophy from Tiffany’s in March 1904. Here is a close-up of the trophy using photos taken by Walter McCarthy when the Cup was last seen on Long Island in 2002 when it was on loan from the Smithsonian Institution.

As described by A.R. Pardington, “The trophy is classical in form and massive in size, with simple decorations that help to accentuate the strong lines of this superb piece of silversmithing. The shape of the Cup was suggested by some of the unique and beautiful vessels found among the silver treasures of Boscoreale (an ancient Italian city and site of an archeological dig) which date back to 79 A.D."

A fine portrait of William K. Vanderbilt Jr. in his 90 horsepower Mercedes at Ormond Beach is worked up in bold relief on the front of the Cup. It celebrates Willie K's greatest personal racing accomplishment of breaking the one-mile land speed record on January 27, 1904 going 92.3 mph.

Including the wooden base, the Cup stands about 31 inches. The bowl contains 481 ounces of sterling silver and has a capacity of over ten and a half gallons.

The back of the Cup has the following inscription:


Presented By


To The


under deed of gift

to be raced for

yearly by cars

under 1000 kilos.

Won By


The winners of the 9 William K. Vanderbilt Jr. Races (1904-1914) are engraved on both sides of the inscription. The 9 engravings indicate the location of the race (always in America), the race date, the winning driver, the country of the winning manufacturer, the overall winning time and total distance. For some unknown reason, the 1915 and 1916 races were never engraved on the Cup.

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Archives: The Vanderbilt Cup Trophy


Nov 25 2010 Jean-Yves Lassaux 10:18 AM

Hi Howard,
What a big surprise to see the erroneous first name engraved on the cup for Hémery! It’s a funny point of the history that I didn’t know! Thanks a lot!

Nov 28 2010 Tom Grant 9:20 AM

What a beautiful work of art.  Thank you for sharing.  Happy Holidays to you and your family!

Nov 28 2010 Noel Gish-Trustee Vanderbilt Museum 12:34 PM

Long Islanders have to find a way to bring the trophy back to Long Island and to the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum for permanent display—-or even a temporary display——if not this year—-then in 2014 for the 110 anniversary of
Willie K’s land speed record. Who has the contact at the Smithsonian ?? Let me know and I will give it my best effort to make it happen.

Nov 29 2010 Howard Kroplick 12:26 AM

Hi Noel:

I totally agree. Please call me at 1-516-625-0123 and we can discuss next steps.


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