One of the most elusive pieces of Vanderbilia are the special radiator plates to signify entrants practicing for the 1910 Vanderbilt Cup Race and the associated Sweepstakes races. Although these plates were documented to exist, I believe no one had actually ever seen them...until my favorite co-author Al Velocci examined this photo of three 1910 Abbott-Detroits posted on April 12, 2011.
For ten days prior to the 1910 Vanderbilt Cup Race, the Long Island Motor Parkway was closed to regular traffic before 8:00 am to enable race entrants to practice on the course. To identify the race cars, each entrant received a yellow radiator plate with black lettering with the copy "6th Vanderbilt Cup Race" and the entrant's number. This September 19, 1910 letter from the archives of the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum documented instructions to lodge keepers concerning these radiator plates and restricted access to the Motor Parkway.
Al Velocci noticed the two license plates on the two Vanderbilt Cup racers (middle and right) in the above photo. He requested a close-up to see if the top plate was the special Vanderbilt Cup Race plate.
Eureka! The plate was the special 1910 radiator plate issued for entrant No. 42. This Mercer driven by E.H. Sherwood finished 4th in the Wheatley Hills Sweepstakes. Does anyone know if any of these 1910 plates still exist? And, can anyone further identify the manufacturer's plate?
This racer was owned by Washington Roebling II, a manager for the Mercer company and the only son of Charles Roebling and nephew of Washington Roebling, builders of the Brooklyn Bridge. In 1912, at only the age of 30, Washington Roebling II lost his life while returning home on the R.M.S. Titanic. Confusingly, this car was one of the three Abbott Detroits entered in the 1910 Massapequa Sweepstakes, not the #42 Mercer.
Great job Al!
Links to related posts on VanderbiltCupRaces.com and the Internet: