Monday, December 30, 2013

Our Year in Review

by Nancy DeWitt
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

What a year! Each one just gets better and better, and 2013 was full of accomplishments. Most notably, we had our best year ever for attendance and gift shop sales. Based on direct feedback and on-line comments, our visitors were very pleased with their museum experience. In fact, their reviews on TripAdvisor earned us the top ranking for Fairbanks attractions for the second year in a row! It's never too late to submit your review, which you can do by clicking on this link.

Other highlights from 2013 include:
  • We hosted a number of school field trips at the museum and offered rides in the Snow Flyer to almost 50 children during Tired Iron week.
  • Historic fashion consultant Abigail Cucolo joined our staff for several months and accomplished a whirlwind of projects. She led fashion tours, wrote blog posts, organized our storage room, cataloged over 700 items into a database, repaired garments, and added over 30 new outfits to the galleries. She also curated our "Beauty and the Bird" exhibit and created several new displays, including ones on undergarments, Fortuny gowns, and WAVES uniforms.
  • Our docents continued to provide valuable support, from educating visitors and providing security during private receptions, to dusting cars and helping Willy with innumerable repair projects in the shop.
  • We worked hard to improve the visitor experience and began offering free audio tours with admission. One guest wrote of the audio tour: "Very good and really adds to the experience."
  • We acquired J. Parker Wickham's library and now have a wonderful collection of resources for research.
  • We participated in the Vernon L. Nash Antique Car Club annual show, Golden Days Show and Shine, and a fairly soggy Golden Days Parade. We were delighted to be selected to carry the winner of the Miss World Eskimo Indian Olympics pageant and her court in our 1919 Pierce-Arrow.
  • We added a number of videos to our YouTube channel, which receives about 2,500 views a week.
  • We had five articles published in national magazines, including The Bulb Horn, Horseless Carriage GazetteAir-Cooled News, and The Classic Car. The museum was also featured in articles in Alaska Magazine, The Ruralite, and Old Cars Weekly.
  • Our historian attended the National Association of Automobile Museum's annual conference in Lincoln, Nebraska, and was elected to the NAAM board of directors.
  • Our manager attended a number of national and regional events, including the Chickasha and Bakersfield Swap Meets, the Scottsdale auctions, and the Hershey Swap Meet.
  • With the help of some great volunteers, we got one of Fairbanks's first Dodge automobiles running again and helped drive it to Valdez to commemorate the first automobile trip to the coast. The story is posted here.
  • In July we hosted a full house for a presentation about the 1908 Great Race by Jeff Mahl, great grandson of the winning car's driver, George Schuster. He gave a fabulous program and we thank everyone who came (and NAPA for sponsoring the event!).
  • We added three automobiles to the Fountainhead Collection, including a 1902 Knox, 1906 Pope-Toledo, and 1910 Schacht. The Pope-Toledo won several awards before we shipped it north, including First in Class (Antiques) at the Kirkland Concours d'Elegance, and Third in Class (A-1 Antiques) and the Ansel Adams Special Award at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.
  • The majority of the museum automobiles got a tune-up and some road time this year. Here are a few out getting some exercise--can you identify them all?
Thank you all for another great year!

Coming to Fairbanks to see the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum and other area attractions? Support the museum by staying right here at Wedgewood Resort. All guests receive half-price admission to the museum!

    Monday, December 23, 2013

    More Edwardian Motoring Fashions

    by Nancy DeWitt
    © Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

    Last year I did a post on Edwardian Motoring Clothing, but since then I've found a few more fun photos to share. These ones focus on some of the special head coverings that were created to hold hats in place and to protect faces from mud, dust, and the cold while riding in open cars. We'd love one of those windshield hats for our collection, in case you have one to sell.

    Some of these could be used today for walking around Fairbanks when it's -40 outside!

    Coming to Fairbanks to see the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum and other area attractions? Support the museum by staying right here at Wedgewood Resort. All guests receive half-price admission to the museum!

    Monday, December 16, 2013

    Early Cadillacs in Fairbanks

    by Nancy DeWitt
    © Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum
    1909 White Model M steam car.

    Visitors to our museum are often surprised to learn that the first automobiles to arrive in Fairbanks were big expensive touring cars, rather than spunky little Model Ts. Prestigious names like Pope-Toledo, Franklin, White, Thomas, and Pierce were among those first arrivals between 1908 and 1910. Navigating what passed for roads in the mining district required the high-horsepower engines that powered these cars; plus, their owners weren't looking for a Sunday-drive pleasure craft, but rather a workhorse that could haul paying passengers and freight to outlying communities. A little Brush runabout and a Chalmers-Detroit roadster were imported here during this period, but they were most likely limited to in-town excursions until improvements were made to the roads.

    J.H. Groves at the wheel of his 1910 or '11 Cadillac Model 30. Three of the
    passengers are A.J. Nordale (mayor of Fairbanks from 1910-11),
    Dan Driscoll (mayor from 1912-13) and Theodore Kettleson.
    Photo courtesy of Frances Erickson
    The first Cadillac in Fairbanks, a 5-passenger touring car, arrived by sternwheeler for J.H. Groves on July 3, 1913, just four days after the first Ford Model Ts were delivered here. Not surprisingly, Groves planned to use it as a passenger stage. Within weeks of its arrival, he decided to see if he could be the first to drive an automobile to Chitina. Alas, Bobby Sheldon and his Model T had a head start of several hours on him. Groves left town on July 30 with three passengers and then turned over the wheel to his nephew, Berkley Manford, at McCarty. The auto party rolled into Chitina on August 4, two days after Sheldon.

    A glacial stream crossing in the Alaska Range that
    didn't go so well. Photo courtesy of Frances Erickson.
    Although Sheldon would go on to start his Fairbanks-Valdez passenger stage service with Fords, he was sufficiently impressed with Groves’ Cadillac to purchase it in 1915. “Business is increasing rapidly and I find it necessary to give my passengers the best accommodations possible,” he said, preferring the heavier, more comfortable cars to the light Fords and Dodges. In 1916 he added a 7-passenger Cadillac to his stage line. A competitor, Henry Williams, imported a Cadillac the following year for his own passenger business. 

    We have five vintage Cadillacs on display in the museum. Our 1909 Model 30 (named for its horsepower) is very similar to the first Cadillac in Fairbanks, but has a shorter wheelbase and demi-tonneau body. When it was introduced in 1909, the 'Thirty' was a remarkable success, with sales that year far outstripping those of every earlier Cadillac model. It's not surprising that one of these popular cars founds its way to Fairbanks over 100 years ago. The Thirty remained the sole model in Cadillac’s catalog for six years, and in 1912 became “The car that has no crank” with the introduction of the Delco electric starter motor. 

    We hope you'll come check out our Cadillac display!

    Coming to Fairbanks to see the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum and other area attractions? Support the museum by staying at one of the Fountainhead Hotels. All guests receive half-price admission to the museum!

    Wednesday, December 11, 2013

    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.

    One of our most popular gifts is a season pass, which is $40 for an individual or $60 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.

    Infant onesie in blue, pink or white: $16.50
    Our museum bookAlaska'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).

    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 HarlowMy Mother's Buttons and Lauren-Spencer Austrian crystal.

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

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

    Fashion books: $14.95 - $19.95
    * The museum books, passes and ornaments are available for purchase 24/7 at the Wedgewood Resort front desk.


    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 and trucks


    Monday, December 9, 2013

    The Mystery of the Third Hertel

    by Nancy DeWitt
    © Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

    1899 Hertel, #28
    One of the most interesting of our Veteran Era cars is our 1899 Hertel runabout (also incorrectly referred to as an Oakman or Oakman-Hertel), which was profiled in earlier blog posts here and here. It basically consists of a body and engine mounted between two bicycle frames, although it has some rather clever engineering.

    1898 Hertel (#37) sold by Christie's in 2002
    The sign that came with our Hertel said it was the only remaining example, although a simple Google search revealed a second one that had been sold through a Christie's auction in London in 2002. That one now resides at the Sparreholm Manor in Sweden. A press release about its sale said it was one of three known to exist, so where was the third one? In late 2009, I received an email from the husband of Max Hertel's great granddaughter saying that they had seen a Hertel at a museum in Australia and would send photos. I assumed it was at the National Motor Museum in South Australia, but my correspondent never followed up with more information, and my internet searches proved fruitless.

    John Pender's 1897 Hertel at the Melbourne Museum
    This past October I decided to revisit my friend Google, and lo and behold, I got some hits on the third Hertel. It is indeed in Australia, at the Melbourne Museum. What a fascinating story it has! It appears to be the oldest of the surviving Hertels. The majority of sources I found say the car was built to order in 1897 for John Pender, a Melbourne businessman who made horseshoes and horseshoe nails. Pender was originally from Canada, and during an 1896 visit to North America he reportedly became so intrigued with Max Hertel's prototype that he ordered one for himself. His runabout is believed to be the first automobile imported to Australia, and the first car in Melbourne.

    In an interesting twist to the story, one resource I came across claim that John Pender actually designed this car, and then collaborated with Max Hertel to build it in Chicago. Could that explain the differences between his car and ours? A Wikipedia entry states that Pender only built the transmission in his "Pender-Hertel":
    John Pender had visited Chicago in 1896, and witnessed the Chicago Times-Herald automobile race where he was impressed by a car built by Max Hertel. After returning to Australia, Pender designed a new type of transmission and sent the details to Hertel. Hertel fitted one of his cars with Pender's transmission and shipped it to Australia.
    During a parade in December of 1897, Pender's Hertel broke down and caught fire, suffering severe damage. It's unclear if he drove it again before he donated it to the Melbourne Museum in 1914. We would love to examine this Hertel and do a thorough comparison to ours. If you are going to Melbourne, please let us know.

    The most interesting part of this story to me is that only about a dozen Hertels are believed to have been built, and yet three of these fragile cars still exist. That is a remarkable survivor rate!

    Coming to Fairbanks to see the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum and other area attractions? Support the museum by staying at one of the Fountainhead Hotels. All guests receive half-price admission to the museum!

    Monday, December 2, 2013

    What's a Spindizzy?

    by Nancy DeWitt
    © Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

    A few weeks ago I was with the National Association of Automobile Museums board in Dearborn, Michigan, and got a behind-the-scenes look at the Henry Ford Museum's conservation lab. Clara Deck, the Senior Conservator, and her staff were busy working on some interesting artifacts--a collection of spindizzies.

    I was surprised I had never heard of a spindizzy. Also known as model racers or tether cars, these one-sixth scale, gas-powered race cars trace their roots to California in the late 1930s. Inspired by motorized model airplanes, hobbiests built miniature cars patterned after midget racers, Indy cars and hot rods. The cars were very finely crafted and had many of the same parts as a real car, just on a smaller scale.

    The cars raced against each other in metal grooves on banked wooden tracks, or individually, tethered to a central pole. The tether wire was 35 to 40' long, and winners were determined based on average speed over several laps. The method of stabilizing the cars at lower speeds (seen in this modern video), as well as watching them race at high speeds, was dizzying; hence the name.

    By the time spindizzies were exhibited at the World's Fair in New York, the cars were being produced by more than 50 manufacturers. In the 1950s they were capable of traveling faster than midget racers and Indy 500 cars, reaching speeds of more than 150 mph.

    The spindizzy hobby died out in the 1950s, but today the cars are very popular among collectors. A handful of people also race modern tether cars, which look more like model rockets and can reach speeds of over 200 mph!

    Original tether cars are quite valuable, so be sure to watch for them at yard sales or when poking around in Grandpa's attic.  I'm thinking we need to find a few 1930s models for our museum.

    Many thanks to Clara, Matt and The Henry Ford for the interesting tour!

    Coming to Fairbanks to see the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum and other area attractions? Support the museum by staying right here at Wedgewood Resort. All guests receive half-price admission to the museum!