Written by our leader Peter Bernhardt
On June 22, 1909, at precisely 12:55:25pm, a 1909 Model T Ford won the 1909 New York to Seattle Ocean to Ocean Endurance Race. The contest, sponsored by the millionaire Robert Guggenheim, was part of a publicity campaign for, the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition held in Seattle that year.
The spidery tough Model T, which weighed less than a thousand pounds, started the Race with four heavy-weight cars; the Stearns, Acme, Shawmut and Itala; each weighing from 3500-4600 pounds. Henry Ford was convinced that a cheap, tough, lightweight, flexible car was what was needed for the impassable roads of 1909 and in that conviction he was right. The Race, to be 4106 miles and lasting 22 days, started from New York City Hall on June 1 when President Taft pressed a golden telegraph key in Washington which both opened the AYP Exposition in Seattle and signaled Mayor McClellan of New York City to fire a gold revolver. They were off for twenty-two days of indescribable driving conditions, requiring the drivers and the mechanics to be entirely self-reliant, highly creative and ingenious in overcoming the many obstacles before them. The summer rains were terrible; the mud ubiquitous and a plague; streams had to be forded; the Fords, (two were entered), were mired in quicksand; often they became lost in deserts and badlands. At Prosser, Washington, an observer, not used to cars, struck a match on the side of the Ford's gas tank and the car caught fire. At Snoqualmie Pass, just east of Seattle, the Ford sank four feet in the snow and a railway gang dug it out.
Arriving at the finish line in Seattle at the Drumheller Fountain, which was the center of the AYP Exhibition of 1909 and now the center of the University of Washington where the fountain still exists, the Ford was declared the winner with a jubilant Henry Ford (caught for posterity by the brilliance of Mr. Kodak) proudly standing by. Although the Shawmut, which crossed the finish line seventeen hours after the Ford, was ultimately declared the winner the following November by the Automobile Club of America, the Shawmut's declared ex-post-facto victory came too late. Pursuant to Rule 3 of the Race Rules, the Ford’s engine had been illegally substituted for part of the distance replacing the engine stamped by the ACA at the beginning of the Race. From June to November Henry Ford put on an advertising and media blitz which implanted in the mind of the world at large that the FORD HAD WON, thereby providing a huge impetus for Ford sales--- the 1909 Model T which won the race was the first year of production which ran until 1927 with 15,007,033 Model T's having been manufactured.
In recognition of the centennial of that long ago feat in automobiling, fifty-five Model T’s, ranging in age from 1909 to 1927, will be following the original route of the 1909 racers, stopping nightly in towns in which the early racers stopped a century ago. Only in a few instances, in which the old roads have disappeared (i.e. in Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon and Washington), will the 2009 racers run on interstate highways, minimizing the amount of deviation from the original route.
Fifty Model T's from the United States will represent each of the fifty States and five additional will come from overseas. The 2009 Centennial Run will start from New.York City Hall on Sunday, June 14 and end on Sunday, July 12 at the Drumheller Fountain; Three days will be spent in Detroit at Dearborn at the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village; and three days at Seattle.
Chris Collins, grandson of one of the organizers of the 1909 AYP Exhibition, is hosting the celebrations for the Centennial of the AYP. He is planning joint activities with the 2009 Run Participants and a parade of the cars will take place through downtown Seattle. We hope that a member of the Ford family will be present at the finish line, hopefully having driven a Model T himself for part or the entire Run.
To repair man and machine, every fourth day will be a free day. Planning started in earnest for the 2009 Run in 2003 and is well advanced. Chairmen of the 2009 Run are Mary and Peter Bernhardt and Judy and John McLaren. In all probability there will be extensive media coverage. Given the ever-increasing danger of modern traffic this will be the last time such an event will be able to be held to recognize the beginning of the Model T era and the birth of the Model T, which put the world on wheels. The 2009 Run will recognize the signal achievements of these early racers, particularly Burt Scott, winner of the 1909 Race and father of Jack Scott, who is planning to be on the 2009 Run.