Nov 02 2013

Cousins of Drivers Montague and Mortimer Roberts Reunited With the Help of

On November 2, 2011, published a post on driver Montague Roberts. Little did I know that it would help to reunite a family.

Montague Roberts and his brother Mortimer Roberts had both driven in Vanderbilt Cup Race-related competitions from 1905 to 1910. Although they did not achieve success in these races, the Roberts' brothers became world famous with Montague helping to drive to victory at the 1908 New York to Paris Race and Mortimer winning the 1912 Pabst Blue Ribbon Trophy Race

Like many families affected by time and distance, David Roberts had lost contact with his cousins...until Robert Thomas left a February 12, 2012 comment on that  "Montague Roberts was my great uncle." 

David Roberts discovered the comment in June 2013 and emailed me: "I am very interested in contacting Robert Thomas to find out if he is my second cousin." With my assistance, contact information was exchanged and on September 18, 2013, David Roberts, Robert Thomas and his father Bob Thomas reunited in Audubon, Pennsylvania.

As it turns out, David Roberts is the son of Montague and Mortimer Roberts' brother Cecil and Bob Thomas is the son of Montague, Mortimer and Cecil's sister Dorothy. They are first cousins and the nephews of Montague and Mortimer Roberts. They had not seen each other in 66 years.

David Roberts has forwarded the following reunion photos for the website; "Thanks to you and your work as a historian, we were able to have this meeting. I am so grateful!"



Howard Kroplick

Roberts/Thomas Reunion- September 18, 2013, Audubon, PA.

From left to right; David Roberts, Helen Thomas, Susan Roberts and Bob Thomas

Robert Thomas, Helen Thomas and Bob Thomas.

Another Roberts first cousin, 92-year old Cancio Ortiz Roberts who lives in Puerto Rico.

Montague Roberts

Montague Roberts drove in both the 1905 and 1906 American Elimination Trials for the Vanderbilt Cup Races.  Roberts became world famous as the initial driver of the Thomas that won the 1908 New York to Paris Race. Driver Mortimer Roberts was his brother.

1905 American Elimination Trial

Montague Roberts was only 23 years old when he raced in 1905.

Montague Roberts drove this huge 60 Hp six-cylinder racer at the 1905 American Elimination trial to select the five American cars to participate in the second Vanderbilt Cup Race.

Montague Roberts (right) at the Mineola Starting Line.

Roberts passing a flagman on Jericho Turnpike

Passing the Mineola grandstand before finishing 5th.

Despite finishing in the top five cars, the Thomas was not selected by the Vanderbilt Cup Commission for the Vanderbilt Cup Race. Harry Houpt, who entered the Thomas, complained, “They have no right to take my $500 and make me spend $1,200 and then throw me out without a hearing.” The Thomas Company reinforced their displeasure with the decision by placing an ad in the official program for the 1905 Vanderbilt Cup Race.

1906 American Elimination Trial

Montague Roberts returned to compete in the 1906 American Elimination Trial driving the #7 115-hp Thomas. The car finished 9th and was not selected for the American team.

November 1940- Automobile Oldtimers Club

Montague Roberts (middle) and four other drivers appeared at an Automobile Oldtimers Club meeting in November 1940. Left to right; George Robertson, winner of the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup Race, Wilbur Shaw, three-time winner of the Indy 500, Montague Roberts, Ralph DePalma, winner of the 1912 and 1914 Vanderbilt Cup Races and Cannonball Baker, pioneering motorcyclist and long-distance endurance automobile racer.

1948-Long Island Automotive Museum, Southampton, NY

Austin Clark, his wife and daughter with Montague Roberts in the drivers' seat. The 1907 Thomas Flyer was purchased by Austin Clark for $3,000 in 1948 and sold to William Harrah in the early 1960s. The car is currently exhibited at the National Automobile Museum in Reno Nevada.

Mortimer Roberts

Mortimer Roberts finished second in the 1910 Massapequa Sweepstakes. His greatest victory was driving a Mason to first place in the 1912 Pabst Blue Ribbon Trophy Race in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

1910 Massapequa Sweepstakes

Mortimer Roberts driving on the Long Island Motor Parkway section of the Sweepstakes

Roberts taking the Hicksville Turn on to Old Country Road.

On Old Country Road in Hicksville.

Passing the pits in fron to the grandstand.

Taking the flag for second place.

The 1910 Abbott-Detroit team. Mortimer Roberts may be the person standing on the right.

Mortimer Robert's Abbott- Detroit racer as seen recently in Sweden.

1912 Pabst Blue Ribbon Trophy Race-October 3,1912, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Mortimer Roberts was reportedly the driver behind this protective driving mask.Note: Currently researching this image to verify it is Mortimer Roberts.


Nov 03 2013 Mark desantis 8:05 AM

That is great news,  good job!!!!

Nov 03 2013 Kenneth J. Harris 9:21 AM

What a nice story!  It will keep me in a good mood for the rest of the year.  Thanks!


Nov 03 2013 Wayne Carroll Petersen 4:18 PM

Good job Howard, That is so Kool!
Best regards,
Wayne Carroll Petersen
Barney Oldfield Great Great Nephew

Nov 03 2013 L.K. 5:32 PM

Wonderful outcome from just a small post.  But it all boils down to Howard and this great newsletter and all the research that goes in to it…...Thanks Howard for sharing all of this…....The photos , the stories ....It’s just fabulous….

Nov 04 2013 Robert Rampton 1:15 PM

Howard -
I’m going to throw a wrench into things and suggest that the photo identified as Mortimer Roberts, is not him.  I believe this is a photo of Harry Endicott and was taken in 1913 at Indianapolis.  His mechanic’s name was J.D. McNamara.  Endicott piloted a Mason in the ‘13 Indy.  The photo of the man wearing that outrageous driving mask is also Endicott.  You can find a similar photo on Mark Dill’s excellent early racing site.  I would like to see an actual image of Monty’s brother Mortimer, as I have never seen one.
Thanks for all the great work.  Love to visit and see what is up.
All the best.
Robert Rampton
Salt Lake City

Nov 04 2013 Howard Kroplick 6:15 PM

Hi Robert:

Thanks for the comment.

You may be right. The source of information on the photo is Joel Finn, author of the “The 1912 Milwaukee Races”. I will do additional research on the photos.


Nov 04 2013 Robert Rampton 6:33 PM

Howard -
Upon more thought, I am still sure the photo is of driver Harry Endicott, however, it was not taken at Indy in 1913.  Endicott drove a red, six-cyliner Nyberg at Indy that year, and that is clearly not what he is sitting in.  Photo is probably 1912 or earlier.  It is obviously a Mason.

Nov 05 2013 Howard Kroplick 9:02 PM

From David L.

“The Roberts story is wonderful.
Keep up the great work Howard.”

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.