Mar 27 2010

A Family Member Seeks Information on a 1904 Vanderbilt Cup Race Driver Edward Hawley

Christine, your great-great-grandfather Edward Hawley was one of the 18 drivers who participated in the first Vanderbilt Cup Race on October 8, 1904. I hope you enjoy the following research and photos:

Edward E. Hawley was born in 1875 and lived at 393 South 12th Street in Brooklyn. In the early 1900s, Hawley was the chauffeur for Edward Russell (E.R.) Thomas. E.R. Thomas was a prominent New York broker, not to be confused with automobile manufacturer E.R. (Edwin Russell) Thomas of Buffalo. Edward Russell was the son of General Samuel Thomas, who helped develop railroad systems in Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Nebraska, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama .

On May 17, 1903, the New York Times reported that E.R. Thomas was "stopped for going too fast while riding in an automobile with a woman...A policeman arrested his chauffeur (Edward Hawley), charging him with driving the machine at the rate of 20 mph".


In the summer of 1904, E.R. Thomas purchased a 60-HP Mercedes to compete in automobile races with Hawley as the driver. In August 1904, Hawley won the "Free-for-All" race at the Long Branch Automobile Carnival in New Jersey. On September 17, 1904, Hawley was successful again at the Dutchess County Fair winning the "Free-for-All" and the Five-Mile Pursuit" race. One week later, Hawley competed in the Empire Track Race in Yonkers. Click on this photo and you will see Hawley with his boss E.R. Thomas in the #4 Mercedes.


These races were just the warm-up for the big race-the "First International Competition for the William K. Vanderbilt Jr. Cup". As described in the 1904 program guide, the #8 car was one of the five Mercedes submitted by the German Automobile Club. According to the Vanderbilt Cup Race rules, although both the driver and owner were Americans, the car represented the country where it was manufactured-Germany.


Just prior to the race, the 29-year old Hawley checked out the car among a crowd of admirers.


In this photo, the #8 Mercedes approached the Westbury starting line behind the eventual winner- the #7 Panhard driving by George Heath.


At the end of Lap 2, Hawley was going strong in in fourth place. Watch the mechanician Jordan leaning towards Hawley when the Mercedes was making the turn in the hamlet of Jericho.


In the next lap, Hawley moved up to third place behind only the #7 and #15 Panhards.


At the end of Lap 4, Hawley was running in second place and making a move on the leader- George Heath's Panhard.


But, it was not going to be the Mercedes' day. As Hawley approached the grandstand near the end of the Lap 5, both front springs broke taking the car out of the race. In a classic Vanderbilt Cup Race photo, Edward Hawley can be seen here explaining the problem to E.R. Thomas. The car finished in 11th place, averaging 59.0 miles per hour.


Following the race, Mrs. E.R. Thomas offered her opinion of the race under the headline "Our Car Didn't Win, But the Race Was Grand.":

"It has been a great, a magnificent race, as epoch-making event in the history of the development of the sport and the science of motoring and a decided step forward for all progress...I can say that I am eminently satisfied with the result of the contest, despite the fact that our car did not win. To understand the merits of the various cars and the skill of the various drivers and to see them coming down the course making the most of every one of the best points of the cars and exercising the very extreme of their supreme nerve and skill is a pure delight to the enthusiastic motorist...It will undoubtedly do a great deal to eradicate from the minds of prejudiced persons the unreasoning prejudices against the motor car and its future."

April 8, 2010 Update: See Edward Hawley compete against William K. Vanderbilt Jr in this film of the 1905 Ormond-Daytona Beach Automobile Races.



March 29, 2010 Update: The Locomobile Vanderbilt Cup Radiator Mascot sold for a record $4,652 last night on Ebay. Nine bidders competed in the auction with the price increasing $1,100 in the last 10 seconds.


March 29, 2010 Update: Al Velocci noted that the registration number for this A.L.A.M. Mercedes was placed on the side headlight. It looks like 13233. Is there any way to identify the owner based on this registration #?

March 29, 2010 Update: A review of the "Cars, Culture and the City" exhibition on

March 29, 2010 Update: Feedback on the Restored Rusty Relics presentation


Mar 28 2010 Dennis Mamchur 7:09 PM

Absolutely wonderful, the sequences were almost like being there, in B&W. I particularly love the comment from Mrs.Thomas.  Thank you for sharing.  You’re right, Google is truly amazing, especially when you were brought up in the age of the enclopedia.

Mar 28 2010 Mark Dill 8:53 PM

good info!

Mar 29 2010 E. Dean Butler 5:03 PM

Howard: I am hugely impressed with your answer to Hawley’s great, great grandaughter!

Apr 06 2011 Arleen Willis 3:24 PM

I have a silver fob with a rider on antique motorcycle on front.
The back has-O.M.M.C or O.
I would appreciate any information on this.

Apr 15 2011 Howard Kroplick 6:20 PM

Hi Arleen:

Please send a jpeg of the fob to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and we’ll try to ID it.


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