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L.F.N. Baldwin and his Stanley Steam Car Wins the 1909 Dead Horse Climb


In the early years of the automobile, the hill climb was one of the most popular ways of proving a cars abilities and many manufacturers participated in them. The famous Dead Horse Hill Climb was held between the years of 1905 and 1911, in Leicester just west of Worcester, Massachusetts and was one of the most challenging of its type. The course rose three-hundred and twenty-five feet over a distance of only one mile.

The Stanley Steam Car built in Newton, only 38 miles east of Worcester was a perennial favorite; Leon F.N. Baldwin set the all-time record in the 1909 running of the event at fifty-four seconds behind the wheel of one. Baldwin’s car was one of two built for the 1906 Vanderbilt Cup Race, the cars did not take part in that contest but were used in other event later on. In the gasoline-powered free-for-all, Harry Grant in a big six-cylinder Alco covered the hill in one minute and 3 and 4-5th seconds.

dh3       dh4     dh5

Racing in the early days involved sponsorships, although the dollar figures involved with them were a small percentage of what is common today. The White & Bagley Company, also located in Worcester, refined what they called the Highest Grade Motor Lubricant on Earth, and was a sponsor of early racing participants in both hill climbs and on the track.

Baldwin in his Stanley, seen at the top of the post is pictured on an Oilzum advertising postcard courtesy of Below is another well-known racer of the day, Hughie Hughes that Oilzum also sponsored, in his Allen-Kingston; he took two class wins and finished second to Grant in the larger Alco in the free-for-all.

Full results of the climb were found in the July, 1909 Automotive Trade Journal, and can be seen in the left hand photo above. The center and right hand photos from the Automobile, July 15, 1909 issue, tell of a plan to build a new course for the Hill Climb with a five-hundred foot rise in a mile that would run two cars at a time. We are uncertain if this came to pass for the last two years of the event. More coverage of early hill climbs here and steam-power here.     


5 responses to “L.F.N. Baldwin and his Stanley Steam Car Wins the 1909 Dead Horse Climb

  1. Baldwin’s Stanley is one of two built with the intent of running in the 1906 Vanderbilt Cup race. They didn’t compete there but appeared in other races later. Neither is known to survive, but this design has captivated the Stanley community. In the past 25 years, at least 11 new cars have been constructed which are inspired by this one, which is truly the epitome of long hood/short deck. It’s so popular that Mark Johnston at Midwest Coach & Carriage now offers new bodies as part of his line – . See for more of these cars.


  2. Interesting to compare the different driver locations with respect to the center of gravity. With the Stanley the driver and mechanic are on top of the rear axle. With the Allen-Kingston the driver is probably close to the center of gravity.

    I wonder what contemporary thought was about this (driver location and weight distribution), and what the different opinions were. I am curious how the weight distribution of these cars compares front to rear.

  3. These Vanderbilt cars were the first to use the 30 Hp engine in a road car. The Stanleys had planed to enter and attend the 1906 Vanderbilt
    race as they paid for a box seat,and almost missed the entry deadline, but canceld before the deadline, I think the entery fee was $1000,
    Baldwin also entered 2 Stanley racers in the St Louis 3 day event, sponsored by the dealers association in Oct, 08 and won the free for all too.
    Baldwin also was a agent for Buffum cars and advertized the flat 8 of ’03, known as the Greyhound. He had agencies in Boston, Worcester, and Providence.

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