Jan 28 2010

Can You Identify This California Race Photo?

Matt has supplied this background information on the photo:

"The original picture and negative was found in a bunch of items of a friend of mine as he was cleaning out his father’s basement. The image was taken by his grandfather. It was put in the basement and forgotten about until a couple years ago when it was rediscovered. The original image didn’t survive all that well, but the negative was pristine and high quality. My friend had some museum quality reprints done up and this is a small one (5x17). He did a couple up very large and had them framed. He may have sold one of them. There were other automobile images as well, but I think this was the only racing photo. His grandfather was out in California during this time period and the other images that were with this one and of the same in of negative were taken in California, thus our thought that this is a California image. I tried to use the Start/Finish banner as a focal point as I researched images of races, but I have not been able to match it up with any I have seen yet."

These close-ups of the photo provide some additional clues:


As Matt noted, the banner is an excellent clue to the location. Note the font size and the relation of the "And" to the "Start" and "Finish". The black #11 car was getting ready to start the race.


The #12 car was white and looked like a Lozier.


This is a close-uo of a race official or police officer with the press box in the background.


Matt, based on these Start-Finish Banners, this was not a photo of the 1914 or 1916 Vanderbilt Cup and Grand Prix Races. This was the 1914 banner. Note the letter "A" and "And" were different from your photo.


Here was the 1916 banner. The banner fonts were again different than your photo.

Matt, this is an excellent challenge! Let's see if anyone can identify your photo.


February 3, 2010 Update: Harold Osmer, an expert on West Coar racing and co author of the book Real Road Racing:The Santa Monica Races, has provided the following information on the photo:


"Your recent email blast regarding a California race photo is interesting. It's not Santa Monica. And I have a photo I believe is related. This image is of Harris Hanshue at Portola. The official's box is very similar in construction to the one shown in your photo. Portola is near Oakland, just east of San Francisco. Here is an article More Motor Racing for Pacific Coast from the New York Times archives telling of auto racing in California by Fred Wagner on May 19, 1912. He speaks quite highly of California racing and mentions Portola".

Just after receiving Harold's email, Matt B sent this information: "I got a look at the originals this past weekend and one is labeled on the back “East 14th Street Oakland 1910. So it looks like it’s not a Vanderbilt race.”

Using the VanderbiltCupRaces.com favorite websites, it was time to research the Portola Races. Champcarstats.com provided the results of the 1909 Portolo Festival Race won by Jack Fleming in a Pope-Hartford. The #12 car driven by Harry Michener finished third and was indeed a Lozier!! The #13 car in the race was an Apperson driven by Harris Hanshue.


Using another VanderbiltCupRaces.com favorite Chronicling America, I was able to find a front-page article on the Portola Testival Race published on October 25, 1909 in the San Francisco newspaper The Call .



A close-up of the photo in the article (left) was a eureka moment!. The #12 Lozier is the same car as in Matt B's photo (right).

Matt, here's the final answer: Your photo was taken on October 24, 1909 at the Portola Festival Race held in Portola, California. The #11 car was a Knox driven by Frank Free.

Jerry, Mark, and Harold thanks for helping to identify Matt's photo!


Jan 31 2010 Jerry 3:01 PM

Looks like a Lozier to me, doesn’t that mean it had to be 1912 or earlier? And why Santa Monica? Just because there’s no Spanish moss in the picture? My guess is Savannah, 1910.

Jan 31 2010 Howard Kroplick 6:10 PM

Hi Jerry:

Good point. The photo could be anywhere.
A #12 Lozier did run in the 1910 American Grand prix in Savannah. However, the #11 car (seen in the photo) to be driven by Louis Chevrolet did not appear.



Feb 01 2010 Rog Patterson 8:15 AM

I’m impressed by the detailed knowledge shown by responders towards establishing dates of these ancient races!

Feb 01 2010 Mark Dill 6:21 PM

There are a few possibilities: Carona, Elgin, Santa Monica and Venice are the most likely in my opinion. Other major runs like Lowell, Fairmont Park and Briarcliff seem less likely in my judgment due to the terrain, but they are possibilities as well. A review of those fields in from 1908 - 1914 will get to the bottom of it.


Feb 08 2010 Matt Barkee 3:53 PM

Thanks for your help everyone.  Thsi is really great information!!!

Feb 13 2010 Howard Kroplick 5:06 PM

Hi Matt:

It was fun to discover the background behind your photo!


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