Friday, November 30, 2012

Holiday Gift Guide

Museum logo ball caps: $14.50
All t-shirts: $25.95
Are you looking for a holiday gift for the old car enthusiast or fashionista in your life? Then you should check out the nice selection of items in our museum gift shop. We can ship these anywhere within the United States. Call us at 907-450-2100 for details, and by December 16 if you want something shipped in time for Christmas. Otherwise, stop by the museum on Sundays between noon and 6 PM (yes, we will be open Dec. 23 and 30).

One of our most popular gifts is a season pass, which is $35 for an individual or $50 for a family. These can be purchased at the museum on Sundays, or any time at the Wedgewood Resort reception desk. T-shirts and ball caps with our embroidered Auburn logo are also popular, as is the humorous t-shirt pictured above right and the onesie below.

Harlow necklace: $60
Our museum book, Alaska's Fountainhead Collection: Vintage Treads and Threads is a wonderful gift at only $19.95. We also have a selection of fashion history books and the #1 reference for collectible automobiles, The Standard Catalog of American Cars: 1805-1942 ($75).

Michael Vincent Michaud cast glass necklaces: $54-$90

Other items in the gift shop include die-cast cars, ornaments, magnets, mugs, Edwardian hats, beaded purses, scarves, bookmarks, coasters, smoked salmon and a wide selection of vintage-inspired jewelry. The latter includes some lovely pieces from Jewelry by Harlow, My Mother's Buttons and Lauren-Spencer Austrian crystal.

We hope you'll stop by and support the museum this holiday season!

Fashion books: $14.95 - $19.95
Infant onesie in blue, pink or white: $16.50

My Mother's Buttons rings ($38) and bracelet ($36)

Edwardian hats: $72 - $85

Austrian crystal brooch: $13.95
Harlow bracelets: $54 - $61

Die-cast cars & trucks: $11.95

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Pope Returns to Alaska

by Nancy DeWitt
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

Photo courtesy of the Ronald Reagan Library
Alaska's location on the Great Circle Route has several advantages, notably that numerous cargo planes stop here to refuel on their flights between North America and Asia. Occasionally a VIP emerges from an airplane during a refueling stop, and in 1984 Fairbanks was treated to a double bonanza when President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II coordinated their layovers here. It was the first time a Pope and U.S. president had met outside of the Vatican or White House.

This wasn't the first time a Pope had made it to Fairbanks, however. Back in May I wrote about Pope-Toledos in Alaska and the Yukon, one of which was the first automobile to arrive in Fairbanks back in 1908. These cars were named for Colonel Albert Pope, who founded a bicycle and automobile production empire that spanned several states. His automobiles included the Columbia, Pope-Waverly, Pope-Tribune, Pope-Hartford, and the pinnacle of his marques, Pope-Toledo.

One of the Dawson Pope-Toledos
Photo courtesy of Candy Waugaman
In 1907, two Pope-Toledos were imported to Dawson City in the Yukon Territory. One was brought in by Captain J.B. Hubrick, a roadhouse owner and Dawson's cable ferry operator. It was "...fitted with extra large tires and accompanied by large quantities of repair parts and supplies, including wood alcohol and glycerine to mix with the cooling water to prevent freezing." Hubrick planned to establish a motor stage line between Dawson and Granville. Newspapers and automotive journals reported that the man who would drive Hubrick's auto "over the northernmost stage line in the world" would be Carl Lilliesterna, also known as the Swedish Auto Tramp.

Robert Sheldon at the wheel of his Pope-Toledo
Photo courtesy of Frances Erickson
"There was a tremendous scramble for rides on the first day," reported The New York Times, and "the Red Devil" was kept busy all summer. At some point, perhaps around 1910, the big touring car was barged to Fairbanks by Jack Sale, a jeweler who had moved from Dawson to Fairbanks in 1906. Robert Sheldon purchased it for $500 and later noted "it was out-of-time and otherwise in bad shape and not in running condition." After repairing it Sheldon used the Pope-Toledo as a taxi for two years. He then sold it to the Tanana Valley Railroad, which had Fred Lewis convert it to run on the tracks.

The Fountainhead Auto Museum's new Pope-Toledo
Photo courtesy of Al Murray
We know of only 10 or so surviving Pope-Toledos, and just a mere handful of those match the models that made it to Fairbanks over 100 years ago. The most attractive of those was the Type XII with the Roi de Belges body that Hubrick and Sheldon owned. Its upswept sides resembled a tulip--and the curving lines of the cowl and radiator added to its appeal. After years of searching, we have finally acquired an identical car for our museum. Our 1906 Pope-Toledo Type XII 7-passenger touring car is now at Murray Motor Car in Monroe, WA for a general freshening before a possible appearance at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in August of 2013. We will ship it north at the end of summer and then plan to have a Pope-Toledo homecoming celebration! It won't be as exciting as a papal visit, but we're sure you will be impressed with our new Popemobile.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Old Dodge Rumbles to Life

by Willy Vinton
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

The year was probably around 1926 when the 10-year-old Dodge touring car's engine gave up. It probably wasn't worth the cost to rebuild it, so I'm guessing owner Tom Gibson decided to park it and use its parts to keep his other cars operating.

When the car came to the museum on loan from David Stone and Don and Ray Cameron, it was minus its engine and transmission and was pretty well stripped down. It looked rather homely compared to the museum's finely restored cars, but it had character as well as provenance. This car was quite likely the first Dodge in Fairbanks, and it hauled many passengers between Fairbanks and Valdez as part of Gibson's Auto Line.

It sat on display for some time before I convinced Steve Cary, a former heavy equipment mechanic, to get involved with us and work on the old Dodge. I think it took him awhile to realize what a challenge it was going to be, and by then it was too late, we had him hooked. Despite having no experience with this "old stuff," Steve set off at a rapid snail's pace to get the car running again. There were times I could tell he was getting frustrated seeing no visible results, but with continued encouragement he persevered.

I cannot say enough good things about the crew of volunteers that come in to help with projects like this, and the amount of hours that Steve put in to make this all come together. We hauled in boxes and boxes of parts, and Steve spent a lot of painstaking time just sorting and inspecting each one for use. All of the running gear was either rebuilt or serviced to make sure the Dodge could be driven.

On November 7 the Dodge was ready for its first run since 1926. It was below 0 F, and I must admit that the old car weathered the conditions better than the occupants! Still, we couldn't let the subzero temperatures deter us, as the Dodge had a parade date approaching. On November 12, the long-awaited new Veterans Memorial Bridge over the Chena River in downtown Fairbanks was due to open, and a small group of antique cars carrying local veterans had been invited to inaugurate it. The Dodge would follow the Creamer family's 1910 Chalmers-Detroit, which had also opened the Cushman and Wendell Streets bridges decades ago.

It was around -5 F and breezy when we chugged over the bridge and through downtown that day. The old Dodge ran flawlessly in the cold, probably reminiscent of the old days of travel on the Valdez-Fairbanks Trail. It was a great feeling to drive it across the bridge and bring another bit of Fairbanks history back to life.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Baby Austin, Indeed!

by Nancy DeWitt
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

We don't often have two of the museum automobiles out on the road at the same time, but Willy made a special effort this summer to get our shortest and longest cars out for a photo session. He claims he was driving our 1932 Cadillac V16 Imperial Limousine when it backfired, and voilà--a "mini me" appeared!

That's our 1934 American Austin Series 475 coupe back there. An Americanized version of the British Austin Seven, these whimsical cars were also known as Baby Austins. Very fitting.

The Cadillac sits on a 149" wheelbase and carries a 165 hp, 16-cylinder engine displacing 452 cubic inches. The American Austin's wheelbase is a mere 75" and its little 15 hp, 4-cylinder engine displaces only 45.6 cubic inches. Weights are 5,905 and 1,130 lbs, respectively. Can you guess which car has a fuel economy of 40 miles per gallon and which one gets around 8.5 mpg?

At this angle the size difference isn't so obvious, but it sure is when you sit in the front seats. We practically had to grease up Willy to fit him behind the Austin's wheel. The difference in the original purchase prices was also extreme -- $345 for the Austin in 1934 and $5,445 for the Cadillac in 1932. That would be approximately $5,908 versus $91,205 in today's dollars! These cars are a wonderful contrast and well worth seeing up close.

The Cadillac will be making a special winter drive on November 12 when several antique cars will roll across the new Veterans Memorial Bridge at 1 PM in downtown Fairbanks.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Vintage Treads and Threads

by Nancy DeWitt
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

Not a week goes by that I don't encounter a recent museum visitor or read a review that expresses shock at the extent of our collections. It's not surprising that many expect to find no more than a few Model Ts and other old Fords in a Fairbanks car museum, and we are thoroughly entertained by the stunned looks on visitors' faces when they walk through the door and see a huge gallery full of ~60 spectacular automobiles.

I am even more delighted by the women who tell me they didn't want to come to our facility, but then enthusiastically admit that the cars and clothing blew them away. In the past year our historic fashion collection has grown to rival our assemblage of automobiles. In fact, we now have over 100 costumes on display, making ours the largest permanent clothing exhibit in Alaska, if not on the West Coast.
Our historic fashion curator, Barb Cerny, has assembled a fabulous array of gowns, suits, dresses, coats, hats and accessories spanning 150 years. While the focus is on the same time periods represented by our cars, several garments date back to the 1880s. From custom gowns to ready-to-wear day dresses, there are even a few treasures by well-known designers such as Mariano Fortuny, Jean Patou and Callot Soeurs on display. Some pieces are from Alaska pioneers, showing that the women who arrived here during Fairbanks' rough frontier days were just as interested in fashion as their contemporaries to the south.

A walk through the museum vividly illustrates how fashion changed from the Victorian's tightly corseted, restrictive clothing to the looser sophistication of the Roaring 20s and glamorous 1930s--just as automobiles evolved from boxy carriage shapes to sleek, stylized designs. My favorite pieces are from the Belle Époche and Art Deco periods, especially the Titanic Era gowns and beaded flapper dresses. Which are your favorites?

This winter we will be offering monthly curator talks that will include behind-the-scenes looks at the fashion collection and several "Under the Hood" tours of the automobiles. Watch our Facebook page for details. And if you need more convincing that you should visit our museum, check out some of our TripAdvisor comments (and please add yours if you have already visited).