Early Glidden Tours

The 1905 Glidden Tour

Photo from the 1905 Glidden Tour A local constable nabs a group of “scorchers”. The speed trap has been with us as long as the automobile.
(from University of Arizona Library, Special Collections)

The Glidden Tours provided numerous people with their first glimpse of a horseless carriage; and in many towns and villages along the tour route, citizens came out in force to wave at and welcome the drivers and their automobiles. The Glidden tourists were not received as warmly everywhere and were often greeted by local constables lying in wait in speed traps. Drivers often lost their way when the confetti trails marking routes were changed or eradicated by locals, and they also had to be on the lookout for more serious practical jokes such as poles being placed across the road. The Manchester, New Hampshire Union, an influential New England newspaper, took a particularly strong dislike to the tour and had this to say about the 1905 Glidden:

We could not say anything about this tour until it happened. To talk about it in advance would manifestly be to offer battle to a possible shadow. But now that the procession has passed and the tour of the AAA is completed, it is fair to comment upon it. To our mind, the whole thing has been an almost entirely unmitigated nuisance. The lives and property of perfectly harmless people have been seriously menaced; the laws willfully disregarded; and for no earthly reason rather than to afford amusement to a lot of strangers. There seems no reason at all why the people of the community should be subjected to such things.

Automobiles are good things, and some of the people who own them or drive them are fit to be trusted with them; but, to tell the thing exactly as it is, most of them are not. They seem to think they have the right to use the road to the exclusion or discomfort of other people, to say the least. A few entirely disregard the danger they cause to the lives and property of the people who live here and built the roads they are using and keep them in repair for their own use.

Take for instance the record of the run from Concord to Nashua — 18 miles in 40 minutes! Have they the right to do such a thing? Take a list of accidents they caused: an old man thrown out of his wagon and his arm injured, while his horse ran away and smashed the wagon and harness to bits; a collision with a lumber wagon and the driver of the automobile hurt; a horse and a mowing machine badly frightened and cut up. All these things without redress offered or obtained from the man who owns the machine.

We say it is an outrage; and, if these people think of coming here another year, we hope the laws against speeding and scorching will be promptly and vigorously enforced against every offender. Let a few of them stay in jail for two or three days, and all the rest of us will be the better for it. We like automobiles. We believe in them and enjoy them. We hope they have come to stay, and we see where great benefit will come to the state from their reasonable use; but to turn loose a lot of crazy mountebanks bent on making a record over our roads is a distinct outrage and ought to be stopped once and for all. This is in the interest of the machine as well as everybody else.

The first AAA Reliability Tour to bear Charles Jasper Glidden’s name began in New York City on July 11, 1905. Thirty-three contestants started on this first Glidden Tour which concluded on July 22. Glidden and the Touring Committee of the AAA drafted a set of rules for the tour that assumed sportsmanship and proper conduct on the part of the participants. The comfort of the Glidden tourists was a prime concern; and the excellent preliminary work done by the AAA included a thirty-two page tour packet with detailed maps, road directions, and pertinent information on hotel, garage, and baggage truck accommodations.

The first 121 mile leg of the trip started in New York City and traveled through New Rochelle, Greenwich, and Stamford to Hartford. One of the most famous incidents on a Glidden took place on this day of the tour. Jean Newton Cuneo was following closely behind Harlan W. Whipple when construction workers setting off a blast near Brother’s Brook warned him to stop. She swerved violently to avoid hitting Whipple’s Peerless and managed to get on the bridge, but her White Steamer crashed through the guardrail and fell nine feet to the river bed below. It landed on its side, pinning Mrs. Cuneo underneath. The construction crew and other motorists worked quickly to release her and were relieved to find her and her three passengers unhurt. The White had not fared as well, suffering a bent rear axle and connecting rod and broken road spring and condenser. Amazingly the steamer started once it was upright and Mrs. Cuneo drove out of the river under her own power.

The resourcefulness, stamina and resoluteness of Mrs. Cuneo was typical of the early Glidden tourists as was the willingness of drivers to help each other. This attitude was soon defined as the “Glidden Spirit” and is recognized and appreciated now as much as it was then. On the second day, 122 miles were covered going to Boston. Stops on the following days included Portsmouth and Bretton Woods where contestants took part in the 8-mile, 3,000 foot “Climb to the Clouds” up Mount Washington. On the ninth day of the tour the Gliddenites began the return trip to New York City traveling a total of 870 miles on this tour.

The 1905 Glidden Tour was a social event as well as a motoring contest; but although Glidden’s intent was to attract owner-drivers to a sporting test of their machines, the tour attracted a large number of factory entrants eager for the publicity the tour generated. The scoring system allowed many contestants to achieve a perfect score at the end of the tour and participants were asked to vote for the three Glidden tourists they felt had accomplished the best all-around touring. Percy P. Pierce, who drove a Pierce Great Arrow, received more than twice the votes of any other contestant and was presented with the Glidden Trophy.