Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Owen Magnetic Restoration Update

by Nancy DeWitt
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

Certainly one of the more interesting cars in our collection is our 1917 Owen Magnetic, one of about a dozen known extant. I have seen only a handful of other Owen Magnetics, including ones at Jay Leno's, the Nethercutt Museum (2), and the Tupelo Automobile Museum. Ours came to us from the J. Parker Wickham Collection, in fair shape with a burgundy paint job. We've had it out on the road several times. It drives great, but a crack in the top of the block was a concern.

Clockwise from top left: 1917 Model M-25 touring (formerly at Nethercutt); 1921 Model 60 phaeton (Nethercutt);  1916 M-25 touring 1916 (Leno); 1916 M-25 touring (Tupelo).

1916 Owen Magnetic Model O-36 7-passenger touring car
Photo courtesy of the Western Reserve Historical Society

Other Owen Magnetics can be found in the Crawford Auto Aviation Collection (right) and at the Louwman Museum.

In October of 2012, we sent our Owen south for a frame-off restoration and block repair at Murray Motor Car in Monroe, WA. It's been in the talented hands of Al and Paul Murray ever since, and boy, have their hands been full! They completely rebuilt the engine and had the block repaired by "Cast Iron Mike," the northwest's preeminent cast-iron welder. The water pump, carburetor, and magneto were rebuilt, a new muffler was installed, and the rear springs, real wheel bearings, and front hub seals were replaced. The car now has all new nickel plating, new windshield glass, new front floorboards, a new top, and new carpet in the rear.

The Murrays also completely stripped and repainted the car and powder coated the wheels. It still needs some finishing touches, but we'll have it ready for the Pacific Northwest Concours d'Elegance at the LeMay - America's Car Museum on September 7. We can't wait to see and drive the newly restored car, and hope to see you at the show! If you miss it, the Owen Magnetic should be back in Alaska in October.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Gift Shop Update

by Nancy DeWitt
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

During the planning stage and first years for our museum, I had the good fortune to visit a number of other car museums in the United States. One of my tasks was to check out their gift shops and find out which items were popular sellers. Alas, many of these were too area- or brand-specific for our shop, such as Route 66 signs, Duesenberg coffee-table books, die-cast models of 50s and 60s cars, Bugatti trading cards, and fuzzy dice.

So, we set out to find items that were more closely related to our museum's artifacts, and to create products that you wouldn't find in other stores. Our most popular items are our book, Alaska's Fountainhead Collection: Vintage Treads and Threads, and postcards featuring our cars. The success of our book has encouraged us to produce others. We'll soon have for sale a guide to the museum's photograph collection, and a coloring book about Bobby Sheldon illustrated by Fairbanks artist Sandy Jamieson. This winter we also hope to produce books on Alaska automobile history and our historic fashion collection.

This year we expanded our selection of reproduction vintage hats, which quickly became hot sellers--especially the stylish cloches. Even ladies in the Red Hat Society can find something here!

T-shirts and ballcaps remain popular with our visitors. This year we added three new silk-screened designs, plus some women's shirts featuring our White Steamer and a Packard in Swarovski crystals.

We've had copper ornaments of our Stanley Steamer, Model T (with Santa!), and Argo electric car custom made. You can also find custom bookmarks, lapel pins, mints, mugs, onesies, keychains, and magnets featuring our cars, and earrings made of jewel beetle wing cases like the decorations on one of our vintage coats.

For fun, we have a very popular book about the little Abernathy boys, who drove a Brush automobile cross country in 1910, and a selection of coloring books, paper dolls, model cars, and books on fashion.

Our most recent arrival is a shipment of vintage-inspired Grandmother's Buttons jewelry, made with 100-year-old buttons (below). GB jewelry has been sold in places like Anthropologie, Lord & Taylor, the Palace of Versailles, and The Smithsonian. We carry other jewelry too, including crystal car brooches by Lauren Spencer, Model T earrings, and pieces by Harlow.

We don't have an on-line store, but if there is a book, shirt, cap or other item you'd like, just call us at 907-450-2100 with a credit card and we can ship the item(s) to you. Better yet, stop in the museum soon for some shopping. In mid-September we will switch to winter hours and will only be open on Sundays.

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, August 11, 2014

The First Automobiles in Alaska

by Nancy DeWitt
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

I've started to compile a book about Alaska's automobile history, based on research I've done for signs in the museum and for this blog. While digging through my notes recently I started reviewing what I've learned about the first automobiles to arrive in different Alaska communities. Here's a summary:

Skagway - the first automobiles to pass through Skagway--and Alaska--were likely the Leon BollĂ© Voiturette (right) and another car brought north in 1900 by Count Emile Janne de Lamare of Paris. As best I can tell, neither vehicle was driven in Skagway. Instead, they were transported from a ship directly to the train for shipment to Whitehorse, where de Lamare planned to drive them to Dawson City. You can read about his (mis)adventure here.

The first automobile actually driven in Alaska was also the first one built here: Bobby Sheldon's runabout, built in 1905 in Skagway. Thankfully, the car still exists. Sheldon donated it the University of Alaska's museum in 1935 and it is on loan to us from the University of Alaska Museum of the North.

Nome - The next automobile to be driven in Alaska appears to be this Thomas Flyer. It was shipped to Nome in the spring of 1904 by the Alaska Automobile Transportation Company of Olympia, Washington. It was later purchased by A.E. Boyd of the Alaska Telephone and Telegraph Company.

Valdez - There is a bit of debate about the first automobile in Valdez. Pioneer Ken Rudolph wrote in his memoir that James Fish brought the first horseless carriage there "along about 1904." He then goes on to describe what sounds just like Fish's IHC high-wheeled Auto Buggy, which didn't actually arrive in Valdez until June 9, 1912 (IHC introduced their Auto Buggy in late 1906). I believe that the Thomas Flyer driven by the American team in the 1908 around-the-world race was the first automobile seen in Valdez, arriving April 9, 1908 on the steamship Bertha. In driver George Schuster's written account of the trip he quoted Valdez freighter Dan Kennedy as saying, "It's the first automobile I have ever seen."

Unfortunately the Flyer never made it off the wharf. Likely the first automobile to cruise the streets of Valdez was the 1909 White Model M steamer owned by the Valdez-Fairbanks Auto Transfer Company, shown at right. I have no record of when this car arrived in Valdez.

Ketchikan - The photo of the highwheeler at right is labeled "First automobile in Ketchikan, Governor Wildred B. Hoggatt driving, ca. 1908." I have my doubts about the date and "first auto" claim, as the car pictured is a 1911 IHC Auto Buggy. A Ketchikan Daily article dated June 13, 1908, noted: "Well, well, well! With the advent of a yellow-backed two seated touring car, Ketchikan has again cinched her title as the first city in Alaska. The car is speedy one, though run with only one horse power." I only wish I knew what kind of car they were describing. Perhaps a REO?

Fairbanks -  The first automobile in Fairbanks was this Type XV Pope-Toledo that arrived on August 6, 1908, on the sternwheeler Cudahy. It was shipped in for David Laiti, owner of the Fairbanks Flume Hose Factory. Laiti had also ordered a Franklin and White Steamer that would arrive on a later boat. The photo at right of the Pope-Toledo was taken in 1910, after the car had been sold to Dave Courtemanche.

Cordova - The first automobile in Cordova was a White Model M steam car, purchased by Captain Austin Lathrop to ferry passengers between the docks, railroad, and hotels. It arrived on March 21, 1910 and is shown here with a load of school children on Flag Day that year.

Sitka - The May 21, 1910 issue of Automobile Topics magazine reported that an Ahnut "Six" had been ordered by someone in Sitka. I would love to find a record of it arriving there, and to determine if it was the town's first automobile.

Juneau - Reportedly the first automobile seen by the residents of Juneau in their coastal town was the Abbott-Detroit Bull Dog (right), driven by Charles Percival during his cross-continental durability run in 1911. Percival originally planned to offload the Bull Dog in Juneau for a spin around the town while traveling south from Skagway, but the steamship schedule didn't allow time for that. Instead, the townspeople could only admire the boat on its perch on the City of Seattle's forward deck. A few sources state the first automobile to be driven in Juneau was a second-hand Pope-Toledo brought in by William Burridge, a mechanic working at Martin Lynch's Machine Shop. It appears to have arrived in 1911. I would think that automobiles would have arrived in Juneau earlier than that. I need to follow up on reports of some homemade motor cars and a note that a man named Charlie Rudy had the first automobile in the area.

Ruby - The first auto in Ruby was purchased by a group of citizens to carry freight and passengers between the town and mining camps on the winter roads. Newspaper articles I have do not mention the make of the car, but give a colorful description of its first outing on November 16, 1914 with Morton Adams at the wheel. "With seven men in the car she swung around the corner at the N.C. bridge and was off on the government road up the hill. She flew like a duck; she sang like a bird; she stopped like a mother's cradle and ran like a scared wolf." 

Seward - This photo is labeled "April 24, 1915 arrival of the first automobile in Seward." One source says that Robert Ashland's Model T truck was the first auto in Seward (likely the truck in the photo), while another claims the Pete Ogle's black Ford four-door touring car came there first. 

Circle - In the spring of 2015, a Ford Model T (right) owned by John Palm arrived in Circle, I assume by riverboat on the Yukon River. He used it to transport people and freight between Circle and Miller House at mile 114 of what would later be called the Steese Highway. Palm was driving it in August of 1915 "when suddenly, for some unknown reason, it swerved and jumped into the river," nearly killing him. The car apparently suffered little damage.

Nenana - William Coghill brought the first automobile, a Ford truck, to Nenana on the steamer Tanana on October 14, 1916. That following January, Bob Scanlon drove a Bob Sheldon car with skis under the front wheels from Fairbanks to Nenana--the first automobile to make the overland journey.

Anchorage - Joe Spenard is credited with bringing the first automobile to Anchorage in 1916, a REO truck. Spenard also brought in a 1915 Ford Model T (shown at right), which became the city's first taxi.

If you have information about and/or photos of the first automobiles in any Alaska communities, or corrections to the above, please let us know!

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, August 4, 2014

A Break in the Weather

by Nancy DeWitt
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

The weather in Fairbanks this summer has been much rainier than usual, which means our opportunities to get cars out on the road have been severely limited. We finally had a two-day stretch of sunshine last week, so Willy and the Pit Crew prepped and drove three cars. I had to get in on the action!

First out was the 1905 Franklin. Until we purchased it this summer, the Franklin had been sitting in storage since 1991. The car is in great shape but needed a bit of work to get it running. Once cranked and on the road, it zipped right along as it motored around Wedgewood Resort. I love air-cooled Franklins and it was a treat to go for a ride in this newest addition to the museum collection.

Next up was a faster and louder ride in the 1927 Stutz Black Hawk boattail speedster. It was lunchtime, so I had Willy take me to the Tanana Valley Farmer's Market for a little "guerilla marketing" and some of Lane's Quickie Tacos. We can't go anywhere in this car without people honking, waving, and flashing us thumbs-ups! Willy thought it needed more exercise, so he took it on the local car club's run-around that same evening. Hardship duty.

Then it was on to one of my favorite automobiles in the museum: the 1918 Biddle Town Car. Women love this Biddle, which looks like a motorized version of Cinderella's coach. If you haven't already, be sure to look inside the Biddle when you visit the museum, because the interior is exquisite. The only thing missing is a speaker tube for me to order the chauffeur where to take me next (and no, I didn't ask anyone if they had any Grey Poupon).

We enjoy driving the museum cars, and not just because it's fun to do so. We love seeing the surprise and excitement on people's faces when one of these classics rumbles past, and giving them a chance to hear their old engines in action. We hope you time your stay at Wedgewood Resort and a visit to the museum when we have one of these beauties out for some exercise!

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!