Cruise to the Rock
November 22, 2007 - Chicago, IL
A small but dedicated group of Chicagoland MG Club members gathered at the corner of South Cornell and eastbound Midway Plaisance on Thanksgiving morning to celebrate the anniversary of the fist automobile race on this continent. Fewer were in attendance than last year, probably due to the sudden onset of winter weather the day before, but the MG marque was well represented with an MGA, Midget, MGB, MGBGT, and MGC. In addition to CMGC members there were representatives of the Toys for Tots Motorcycle Parade, Bill Wildt of Motorsports Unlimited, and a few other automobile enthusiasts.
The Times Herald Race was originally scheduled for November 2, 1895, but the headline that day read “RUN IS POSTPONED.” Although there were over 75 prospective entries, on that date only two cars, both gasoline-powered, were ready and appeared for the race. One was an American entry designed, built, and to be driven by J. Frank Duryea, who had grown up in rural Illinois. The other car was a Benz from Europe, the entry of H. Mueller and Company of Decatur. Others who had hoped to compete asked for a postponement, so, to preserve appearances, it was decided that there would be an exhibition event that day from Chicago to Waukegan and back, and that the actual race would be delayed until Thanksgiving Day. Duryea took an early lead, but at Prairie View a farmer with a team of horses and a wagon crossed the route, causing him to drive into the ditch at a speed of 15 miles per hour. The Mueller-Benz vehicle completed the route, but damage to the Duryea vehicle included a broken differential housing, and it was shipped back to Springfield, MA, where Duryea had built it, to be repaired.
On Wednesday, November 27th, the front page of the Times-Herald proclaimed “Race is a Certainty” on the left side of the page and described a severe winter storm on the right. “Poles down in the Streets. Six to Ten Inches of Slush for Wading”. “Wreck and ruin were on every hand.” We seldom see language like that in today’s Chicago newspapers. But Herman Kohlsaat could hardly postpone the race again…. to be continued.
- Jake and Ann Snyder