Jul 02 2015

The First Automobile Race Held on Long Island (April 14, 1900) Updated: 7/3/15

On April 14, 1900 the Automobile Club of America organized the first automobile race held on Long Island. The 50-mile race was held on Merrick Road from the Springfield Boulevard intersection in Queens to Bablyon in Suffolk County and back. 

It was the fourth automobile race ever held in the United States and according to The New York Times, it was “the first automobile 50-mile race ever run in America.”

Update July 3, 2015: Ariejan Bos has provided additional photos and captions. Ariejan has also provided a link to a copy of the 1900 issues of Automobile Magazine Illustrated. The 1900 ACA 50-Mile Race was described on pages 110 to 122.


Howard Kroplick

Nine of the 15 entrants participated in the race. Drivers for the five gasoline automobiles included; Alexander Fischer drving a Gasmobile, David Wolf Bishop, Jr., Albert Bostwick (chairman of the ACA) and George Chamberlin (president of the ACA) driving Wintons and Cornelius J. Feld driving a 3-hp Compte Albert de Dion-Bouton tricycle.

Ariejan Bos Caption: Alexander Fischer on a Gasmobile, on the right one of the Locomobiles.


Ariejan Bos Caption: David.Wolfe Bishop, Jr. on a Winton

Ariejan Bos Caption: George F. Chamberlin on a Winton

Ariejan Bos Caption: C.J.Field on De Dion-Bouton vis-à-vis, probably a Motorette

Three drivers, S.T. Davis, Jr., David Hennen, and David H. Morris, all drove steam Locomobiles.  Each vehicle was required to have a passenger.

Caption: Leonce Blanchet, the donor of the cup and passenger for Bostwick's Winton.

Ariejan Bos Caption:Secretary Hodge and Whitney Lyon on what seems to be a De Dion-Bouton quadricycle (not a tricycle). They were not competitors.

Andrew L. Riker drove his Riker Electric, the only electric vehicle in the race.. The Riker Electric was “low built, capable of making quick turns and carrying a battery of 60 cells” and the heaviest vehicle (2,500 pounds) in the race. Riker later was a co-founder of the Society of Automotive Engineers and an executive at Locomobile.

Ariejan Bos Caption: A.T. Riker driving his Riker Electric

Seven automobiles finished the race with the lighter steam Locomobiles hampered by a “powerful wind on the homeward journey.”

Ariejan Bos Caption: Albert C. Bostwick and Leonce Blanchet on a Winton.

Riker’s Electric vehicle easily won the race in 2 hours, 3 minutes and 30 seconds, an average of 24.3 miles per hour over the 50-mile course. S.T. Davis, Jr. finished second in a steam Locomobile,15 minutes behind Riker.

This 1900 race set the Long Island stage for the Vanderbilt Cup Races which would arrive four and a half years later.

Ariejan Bos Caption: Riker finishing the race.

The New York Times, April 15, 1900

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 1900

The Automobile Review, April 1900


Jul 02 2015 Ted 3:10 AM

A little late, but had to take a quick look to see what’s going on. Wow, I don’t think you ever mentioned this race did you? and if you did I don’t remember, just learned something again from you, it’s unbelievable.

Jul 02 2015 Chuck Rudy 10:02 PM

July 28, 1899 was one of the prior races in America in Narberth PA.  The track was built for horse racing outside Philadelphia PA for the nations Centennial celebration in 1876 and continued for many years…....but car racing waited a couple decades.  http://phillyhistoryphotos.com/tag/narberth/  I came across this link when researching a couple photos from the Belmont Driving Park in 1912.

Jul 02 2015 Chuck Rudy 10:17 PM

In addition to the link above pertaining to the Belmont Driving Park I also found this….the taxi which arrives regardless, it wouldn’t happen today.  http://www.yesterdaystopstory.com/cabbie-dies-way-station/

Jul 03 2015 Chuck Rudy 10:57 PM

The “first 50 mile automobile race” claim by the NY paper may be inaccurate.  The first ever automobile race in the US was run on a 54 mile course in 1895.  No doubt the LI race was faster than 7.3 miles per hour. http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/duryea.htm

Jul 03 2015 Chuck Rudy 11:05 PM

Here’s a race in 1896 in RI…...I’m starting to guess there may have been more than 4 before the LI race…...perhaps only 4 road races?  The Times did not recognize stadium racing?  A debate for others.  http://amhistory.si.edu/onthemove/collection/object_363.html

Jul 03 2015 Chuck Rudy 11:18 PM

In this site…..1899 and before the USA had 10 races.  Yet the Belmont Driving Park was not one of them.  So more was going on than the Times let on but as noted they may have had a different criteria for what was a race.  http://www.autoracingrecords.com/racelist.php?year=1895

Jul 05 2015 Roy Douglas 4:53 PM

Congratulations on a very informative post about the April 14, 1900 automobile race and for the numerous quality photographs, news articles and links. I wrote an article about this: “To Babylon and Back: The April 14, 1900 Automobile Race on Long Island,” which appeared in the Spring 2004 Long Island Forum: 4-13. I was not aware of the fine article about the race, which appeared in the “Automobile Magazine Illustrated.” We used five photos in the article with the permission of the Hal B. Fullerton Collection at the Long Island Division of the Queens Public Library. I wrote a similar article, “‘Scorching” the Roads in Automobile Test Runs, 1901-1902” for Natalie A. Naylor and The Nassau County Historical Society Journal: Volume 58, 2003: 1-13. This concerned the 100-mile endurance road “tests,” which were run in Queens and Nassau Counties in April 1901 and April 1902.

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