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Chauffeur Peter Christian Wick and a pair of Delaunay-Belleville Limousines

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  • Peter Christian Wick posing with a Delaunay-Belleville collapsible town car

This is the forth post in a series covering the automobiles that Peter Christian Wick operated during his career as a professional chauffeur; he drove in the New York City and Ridgefield, Connecticut areas in the early 1900s. This set of photos show two different Delaunay-Belleville cars, and he drove at least one of them for Mr. Albert H. Wiggin, who was the chairman of the Chase Bank.

The Delaunay-Belleville in the photo above and the three images below was an impressive and large French car that was most likely powered by a six-cylinder engine and may have been chain-driven. The coachwork the chassis is wearing is what we would refer to as a collapsible town car. It offered the comfort of being enclosed, but with the top down and the side and division windows removed it offered the benefits of an open car during pleasant weather.

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The left-hand photo above shows Wick’s wife posing in the car with what appears to be the Sleeping Giant, which is located in central Connecticut, behind her. The center photo shows the car along with the Wiggin’s Fiat in front of the carriage house, which may have also served as living quarters for Wick and the other domestic help. The right-hand image shows a group of chauffeur’s posing with the car. Note the car being washed in the background and the man sitting just behind the front fender with what appears to be a broken arm.

The car Wick is posing in below may not have been owned by Mr. Wiggin as it has been identified as wearing a manufacturer’s license plate from New York. This car is likely to be the smaller four-cylinder model; note the low windshield, the continental-style mounting of the headlamps and the patent leather fenders.

The Wick family has discovered that in 1908 Peter was in Cupid’s Pranks, a 1908 Thomas Edison silent film, in it he can be seen between the 6:40-minute mark and 8:15 operating a limousine. If you can identify the maker of the car in the film, please let us know. You can look back here and see the White Steam cars, a Fiat and a Rainier he also drove in earlier posts here on The Old Motor.

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12 responses to “Chauffeur Peter Christian Wick and a pair of Delaunay-Belleville Limousines

  1. I wonder if the gent with the broken arm got it trying to crank one of the cars ? I’ve heard it had to be done right on the early vehicles ! Having said that , a couple of British cars we’ve had cranked very easy with the hand crank….compression or technology difference I wonder.

    • John, I also thought that there was a good chance he might have broken it that way. The larger the engine and the higher the compression, generally the harder it is to start. Many times a fractured arm is the result of having the ignition timing advanced too far, or forgetting to retard it.

  2. Beautiful set of photos! Delaunay-Belleville always has this look of power and elegance to me. If the limousine on the last photo is a 4 or 6 cylinder, I wouldn’t know for sure, D.-B. built them in several sizes, some of them quite compact. The 6 on the first photo however is the largest: probably the 40CV, with separately cast cylinders and thus 7 main bearings ‘of exceptional length’ (according to Michael Sedgwick in The 6-cylinder Delaunay-Bellevilles, No.31 in Profile Publications). Impressive! There was a larger one still, a 70CV, but that one seems to have been reserved for the Tsar of Russia.

    The ‘continental style’ of mounting front lights is new to me. I know of sidelights mounted at the front of the car, but the other way around I do not remember to have seen before.

    About the movie car: although I cannot find any evidence that Peugeot was officially imported in the US in 1908, it is for me almost certain that the car is a 1908 Peugeot, probably a type 105 landaulette. Maybe the car came into the US through Canada?

    • “although I cannot find any evidence that Peugeot was officially imported in the US in 1908”

      See page 878 for a report (claiming to be based on port records) which shows that in calendar year 1908 2 new Peugeots and no used Peugeots were imported through the port in New York by individuals, and none by dealers. As the official agents were in the NYC area, it seems this would have been the likely port of entry had they imported any.

      http://books.google.com/books/about/The_Motor_World.html?id=NTs-AQAAMAAJ

  3. I’m sure you will be happy to know that the carriage house in the center photo looks as good or better today. The brown shingles are a light gray today with white trim, and the garage doors are modern overhead, with a style in keeping with the building. I’ve stopped by several times hoping to meet the owner and share these photos and history. I’ll be sure to have my camera. The Wiggin estate was directly across the street from the Doubleday estate, where my Grandfather was their chauffeur starting in 1923, small world. Bob

  4. Whereas the Kaiser rode in a Mercedes and the King of Italy rode in an Isotta, the Tsar of Russia rode in a Delauney Bellville! The pre-revolution luxury automobile was a Russo-Balt. I don’t know whether it was unreliable or what to make the Tsar buy French. Has Old Motor ever done anything on Russo-Balt?

  5. I believe the car in question is a 1907-08 National. The round radiator is very distinctive to early National automobiles. There is a 1907 National located in Bellingham Washington.

    • Thanks for your thoughts on this car, and yes the early Nationals do look similar. Before posting this feature it was verified that it is in fact a Delaunay-Belleville by comparing the features of both cars with good photos and literature from the period.

  6. The Russian aristocracy were francophiles since the eighteenth century, so that is probably why the Tsar purchased a French luxury car. If it wasn’t French, it wasn’t the best.

    It was a sign of high class in Tsarist Russia to be able to speak French and this was the world’s diplomatic language, spoken internationally, until some time in the nineteenth century, when English took over. The Russian aristocracy imported French furniture, fashions and style and drank lots of champagne! Of course, the Bolshevik Revolution put a final end to all that.

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