The 1903 Automobile Endurance Run Commemorative Rally:
Birth Pangs of Automobiling: From Devil Wagons to Mud Larks
The birth of automobiling can be found in 1903 and the first transcontinental auto drives in that Summer leading to the Automobile Endurance Run of October 1903. That Endurance Run brought 36 cars from 17 American makers with 125 passengers, including one woman, on a route up the Hudson Valley to Kingston and then across the Catskill Mountains on the Ulster and Delaware Road, now State Route 28. The final destination was Pittsburgh, on an 800 mile route through Delhi, Unadilla, Binghamton, Buffalo, Erie and Cleveland. Road building was spreading and by 1903 a 20 mile Ulster County section from Olive to Pine Hill along now Route 28 had been paved with crushed local Bluestone macadam paving. On October 7 the cars parked overnight in a field at Pine Hill.
On October 8, 1903, the cars left Pine Hill and headed into Delaware County where they encountered a deluge of six inches of rain over old dirt roads which turned to mud. By the time they reached the Susquehanna River at Unadilla, 10 inches of rain had fallen and flooding was widespread. The cars and the people were tough and determined and their heroic efforts were widely reported and inspired the nation. Most of the cars made it to Pittsburgh and the veterans called themselves the Mud Larks.
The lone woman on the Run was Edith Riker, passenger in husband Andrew L. Riker's Locomobile. As the only woman she was interviewed and mentioned in many of the articles written about the Run. She said she was “de-light-ed” with the trip and had this observation: Mr Riker does love to drive fast and I don't care. He won't jeopardize his own life, and I am as safe as Mr Riker, anyway. It is glorious, I think, to fly through the country night or day at railroad speed over all sorts of roads.
That “flying at railroad speed over all sorts of roads” defines the birth of automobiling. The individual mobility, the automobility, we now rely on every day we get in our cars and drive our roads is here expressed 120 years ago. The Rikers and their Locomobile returned over the same route taking photographs, making a 1600 mile round trip.
We plan a Commemorative Rally in September of 2017 along the historic 1903 route in Ulster and Delaware Counties of New York, traversing the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway through the Catskill Park. In future years we hope to expand the event to create an Automobile Heritage Trail over the 800 mile original route. We invite you to join our sponsors, which include The Delaware County Historical Association and Ulster County Tourism, in bringing this event to fruition.
Robert Selkowitz, Director
Links below for more historical information, provided by Bruce Duffie
- The New York-to-Pittsburg Endurance Contest of October, 1903
Commemorating the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers American Automobile Endurance Run of
October 7 -15, 1903 from New York to Pittsburgh.
The 2017 event was a pilot program with a rally situated along the State Route 28 Corridor from Kingston to Delhi, including the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway in Ulster and Delaware Counties. Then along the Treadwell Road to Franklin and crossing the Susquehanna River to Unadilla in Otsego County. In later years the project will expand to cover more of the original 800 mile route through 14 New York Counties and into New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania. It could lead to the designation of an “Automobile Heritage Trail”.
The purpose is to acknowledge the automobile pioneers and road builders and their story. It is also to bring tourism along the historic route through the Catskill Park and beyond through landscape which the New York State Engineer said in his road building report of 1901 would be “one of the most beautiful drives in the State.”