“strange clatter and anemic puffing” — Gold One Dollar Coin

Today, the Gold One Dollar Coin remembers the first “horseless carriage” race organized in the United States by the Chicago Herald-Times for November 2, 1895.

The newspaper received many requests to participate, however only two raced that day.

From the Merchant Plumber and Fitter of February 25, 1916:


Herald’s Races Start Industry for Americans.

“Horseless Carriage” Road Contest 20 Years Ago Birth of Automobile Business.

By W. N. McIntyre.

By Alfred Reeves, general manager of the National Automobile Chamber of Commerce, and many other leaders in the business, the Chicago Times-Herald automobile races in November, 1895, is called the birth of the industry.

In the dual capacity of referee and spectator I witnessed America’s first horseless carriage road race, which attracted 150,000 curious inhabitants of Chicago to Jackson Park, the starting and finishing point.

Only two cars competed in the contest of Nov. 2, 1895, although about 90 entries were made, and the Mueller was the only one to finish.

About a week before the schedule date of the race, for which the Herald offered a prize of $5,000 to the winner, the majority of the makers who had nominated cars discovered that their motors would not generate enough power to move the machines out of the shops, and 44 builders attached their names to a petition asking the judges for a postponement.

This petition—which is interesting to me since but one of the signers is building cars today—was presented to H. H. Kohlsaat, then publisher of the paper. He agreed to the postponement but hung up a consolation prize of $500 for the victor in a race to be run on the original date, Nov. 2.

Two in First Race.

The consolation race attracted only two entries, the Mueller of Decatur, which was described by the newspaper reporters as a “two-seated dos-a-dos-trap,” and the Duryea, the result of three years of experiment at Peoria.

The distance to be covered was 90.74 miles and the course was measured by Charles P. Root, N. H. Van Sicklen and J. F. Gunther.

In winning the race the Mueller consumed 5.5 gallons of gasoline. It stopped 10 times on the road, losing 46 minutes in making repairs, and crossed the finishing line after eight hours and 48 minutes of strange clatter and anemic puffing.

In driving the car to the starting point Mr. Mueller was stopped by a South Park policeman and ordered off the boulevard.

He sought a roundabout way and reported late to the officials.

Just to prove to the skeptical throng that his car would move, he drove the wonder buggy around the Washington Park race track, which the Summer before had been in the limelight when Joe Patchen defeated John R. Gentry in 2.05 1/4.

The record of the famous pacer was not even threatened, the Mueller car making the mile in about four and a half minutes.

What Cars Were Like.

The following description—an effort of a Chicago reporter of that day—of this mechanical snail will appear strange today:

“The Mueller is an imported car, made by the Benz people of Manheim, Germany. It is equipped with a 3.5-horse-power motor, consumes a gallon of gasoline in an hour, has three speeds and is capable of being started and stopped very quickly. When stopping for a short time the operators do not attempt to shut off the motor power. The belt is just shifted on a loose pulley. This is done on account of the manner of starting a gas engine, which necessitates a man getting off the vehicle. The carriage is stopped from the front seat and by shifting the belt. The gasoline is heated by the exhaust from the cylinder of the engine, which gives a gas almost equal in power to illuminating gas, known as carbinated gas. The gas admitted to the cylinder is fired by means of an electric spark, produced by a storage battery and an electric coil. The Mueller wagon has wooden wheels, fitted with solid rubber tires.”

Duryea a Queer One.

The Duryea looked like a single-seated road or speed wagon.

“It uses ordinary store gasoline,” the experts of 20 years ago wrote, “and has a carrying capacity of eight gallons. It will run from 100 to 200 miles without refilling, and can speed backward as well as forward. It has four speeds—five, 10 and 20 forward and three miles backward. It is three horse-power and weighs 700 pounds.”

Some of the incidents of the startling contest of Nov. 2 are worthy of recalling now.

A few days before the race the Muellers, father and son, went over the route and distributed tanks of gasoline and cakes of ice at different points along the course.

When stops were made at these supply stations for fuel the day of the contest, chunks of broken ice were put in a receptacle on the motor to cool the engine.

In the consolation race the Duryea broke a chain, and in repairing the driving apparatus lost the lead in 48 minutes.

Finally the Duryea driver was forced to pull into a ditch to avoid a collision with a road hog. This accident put it out of commission.

Duryea Wins Later.

The Duryea scored a belated triumph in the real race on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, 1895, when it defeated five other starters in the postponed $5,000 event and averaged 7.5 miles an hour over a 54-mile course.

The judges of this contest were: Henry Timkin, then president of the Carriage Builders’ National Association; General Herrette, representing the United States Army, and Professor Barrett, a Chicago electrician.

Weather conditions were anything but ideal. The roads were covered with deep snow, on which rain had fallen and frozen.

In some places the snow and ice were strong enough to bear a man’s weight.

At the close of the contest it was impossible for the judges to make a decision, as it was claimed that all the competitors had violated the rules.

After a week’s deliberation the following awards were announced:

Medal—Morris and Salem electric cab, for best showing in test for absence of noise, vibration, heat or odor, and cleanliness.

$2,000—Duryea for best performance for speed and pull.

$1,000—Mueller & Co. for second in operation.

$500–Macey & Co. for general showing.

$500—Sturgis for general showing.

$200––G. W. Lewis for friction disk and brake.

$150–Haynes & Apperson for plan for the prevention of vibration by balance of driving engine.

$100–Max Hertel for device for starting motor from seat.

$50–De Laverne for counterbalance on engine.

Colonel Ludington, of the United States Army, opposed any reward for model, as “no vehicle showed any distinct improvement.”

Commenting on the result the Herald said editorially:

“The American type of motorcycle has not yet been produced. This is not in disparagement of the many excellent designs exhibited, but it is a plain fact, the truth of which will be admitted by any mechanical engineer whose opinion is worthy of consideration.”


The Gold One Dollar Coin shows with an image of the “winning” Mueller automobile of the first race on November 2, 1895.

Gold One Dollar Coin