The lone picture (above) of the four vehicles entered in 1909’s Ocean-to-Ocean Endurance Race was taken in Goodland in front of Hargraves Garage, 1011 Main. As promotion for the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Expedition, a Seattle world’s fair, cars were to race from New York City to Seattle. The race launched Ford Motor Company’s Model T on its illustrious career. By the time World War I had ended, half the cars on earth were Model Ts. When Ford stopped producing Model T cars in 1927, the company had sold 15 million of them.
From Ocean to Ocean
On June 1, New York City Mayor George McClellan, son of the Civil War general, had fired one shot in the air from a golden pistol. Four vehicles, two Fords, a Shawmut, an Acme and an Itala, from Italy, had left New York City June 1. They struggled for 10 days to reach Goodland. Many of the roads they had traveled had never seen an automobile.
The Fords arrived Goodland at 11:30 a.m. Friday, June 11, 1909. The drivers were plastered in mud. The paint on their wheels had been worn off. The tires’ rubber was gone. The Ford teams were clad in rubber. Hargraves took a garden hose and sprayed the men clean of road filth. Then they went to Roth’s Bakery, 1014 Main, where the orthodontist is now. The 60-horsepower Shawmut arrived at 2:10 p.m., but stayed only a short time. The Acme showed up on Saturday, still competing, but hopelessly behind.
The Ford had some built-in advantages. It was lightweight. When one of the Fords got stuck, its crew would simply pick it up and set it on planks. The other, much heavier cars, had to find a horse, block and tackle to haul them out. And the cars got stuck a lot. American roads were notoriously bad. Only seven percent of the roads were classified as “improved”. The rest were simply dirt tracks. The Fords also benefited from their dealer network. The dealers scouted ahead for the best route and they provided mechanic services. The Shawmut network was rarely seen past New York State.
After 23 days on the road, Ford No. 2’s driver Bert Scott and mechanic C.J. Smith pulled into Seattle at 12:55 p.m. Ford Motor Company President Henry Ford and Seattle Ford dealer R.P. Rice followed behind them. Ford was jubilant, the “happiest man in Seattle.” Scott and Smith were near collapse. Shawmut’s car finished 17 hours later. Ford No. 1 had been forced to replace an axle in Snoqualmie Pass on the final stage east of Seattle and was therefore disqualified. That team came in the next day, with Henry Ford and Rice as escort. The Acme finished a week later. The Itala had dropped out in Cheyenne, Wyo.
Ford made the victory the centerpiece of its marketing campaign. However, five months later, the Automobile Club of America decided to disqualify Ford No. 1 because its engine had been changed in Idaho. Shawmut was declared the winner. Their belated victory never made the headlines and the company went bankrupt shortly thereafter.
Ocean to Ocean Centennial
In 2009, Model Ts again crossed the country. They stopped in Goodland once more. The 2009 Ocean to Ocean Centennial Endurance Run presented a plaque to Goodland on June 28, commemorating the place where the four cars were pictured. They paraded on Main Street’s bricks, which were muddy ruts in 1909. Then they ate supper at Ennis-Handy House, which was two years old when the original racers came through.by