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By Motor to the Golden Gate – Emily Post – 1915

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  • Posing for a photograph in New York City.

Emily Post was an American author famous for writing about etiquette. In 1915 against the advice of many of her friends and even a few professionals she decided to take a cross-country journey in her car from New York City to San Francisco driven by her son Bruce. After the adventure she wrote a book about the trip for her publisher P.F. Collier & Son. Thanks to reader Donald Ellis we have can share with you these photos and link you online to a copy Post’s book By Motor to the Golden Gate that you are sure to enjoy.

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  • Gramercy Park, New York City.

The car is a bit of a mystery as she does not identify the maker, but this much is known about it: The chassis was built by an unknown company; it had a 144-inch w.b.; was powered by a six cylinder engine, and was fitted with custom coachwork, fenders and outside exhaust in England.

The car looks very much like it was remodeled in the manner that racer and car dealer Gordon Watney did at the time and referred to as a Sports Body. The chassis is very much like that as used on the Locomobile, but the shape of front frame horns and the configuration of the rear hubs are quite different.

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  • Rough path on the way to see the Sleeping Beauty in the Southwest.

On the second day of the trip west of Albany, a connecting rod bearing was burned out due to a ruptured oil supply line. The following are the larger repairs preformed on the trip: in Chicago the the valves were reground; in Davenport, Iowa the timing gear cover was repaired; in Colorado Springs, Colorado the oil pan was removed to stop a leak and new gaskets installed; in Santa Fe and Albuquerque the exhaust system was repaired and in Los Angeles a front spring was replaced.

You can read the rest of this fascinating book filled with more photos, the daily expense report, Post’s hand drawn maps and read about all of the repairs at By Motor to the Golden Gate at the California Digital Library.

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  • Sometimes we struck a bad road.

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19 responses to “By Motor to the Golden Gate – Emily Post – 1915

  1. Best option for the moment seems to me a 1912 Premier Six-60. There is still a cream-colored 1912 Premier roadster around, which looks very similar in appearance regarding radiator, spring horns and front axis a.o. Even the straight front fenders are alike, although Premier normally had rounded front fenders.

  2. It’s extremely difficult to identify a car whose body and fenders have been modified! I agree with Mr. Bos’ theory that this car was made a few years earlier than its license plate would suggest. Perhaps the simplest way to identify the year and model of this car would be to search the Massachusetts DMV records?

  3. Back in June a friend of mine participated in the Lincoln Highway celebration – driving a 1960’s Valiant I think it was. In any event he wrote a little book about his trip titled “By Mopar to the Golden Gate”!!!

    • My error – Now that I think about it it was 2013 year that they did the celebration run. But the car was the same – a convertible, at that.

  4. This is a wonderful read for any old- auto enthusiast. You find out many interesting details about long distance driving then, among them the 20 MPH speed limit in several mid-western states., the horrors of mud, the chancy accommodations They gave up out west and put the car on a train to Los Angeles where they resumed the motor trip up California. Oil consumption was huge and you have to wonder if it was burning or leaking it. The objective of the trip was the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco. I assumed from the pictures in the book that the car was on a Locomobile chassis. Mr. Bos might be correct.

  5. The hub bolt pattern looks like it could only be Premier. However the hood is unlike a Premier as the louvers
    only cover half the hood side panel. I would guess the chassis is a ’11 or ’12 as a ’10 of any make with a 6 and a
    long wheelbase (140?) would offer only limited and distinctive choices. Also , most ’10’s would have the gas tank
    under the seat and this one is hanging in the back. The ’12 Premier 6-60 I’m looking at, has electric headlamps.
    I wonder if they left the factory that way? With about 8 makes offering 138″ wheelbases, or more in 1912 in
    America, I think Premier is the best choice. I’m always in awe of Mr. Bos and his talent and Mr. Harper has a
    keen insight on early cars (maybe being a second generation collector gives him an inside track).

  6. In the introduction to the book the editor says that the car (whatever it is) was a chassis sent to England for a coach-built body. The reason that it’s wearing Massachusetts plates, is that the owner her nephew , was a student at Harvard!

  7. I note the son’s comments on the car at the back of the book. He recommended using a U.S. car next time. He regretted the fact that everything on the car was in metric including the tires. When they lost an engine bearing there were none available locally. The repair shop did find one that fit though. He felt the car was too low, wrong wheels and tires and various other comments. Tires were metric but he found US tubes would fit. 35 gallon gas tank!

    • George, Thanks for the details you found. The person that read the book for us thought that it was stated to be an American built chassis that was bodied in the UK.

      I did read the part about the burned out engine bearing that the local shop ended up re-babbitting after it failed on the second day west of Albany, NY.

      What an adventure at the time.

  8. I just read By Motor to the Golden Gate. Great read, but puzzled about the make of Emily Post’s car. She took great pain to keep it a mystery. At last, the truth came out in Emily Post, by Laura Claridge, 2009. “1914, Emily agreed to stay in London for a few weeks to get their car remade to Ned’s (Edwin, E.M.) specifications. With Emily’s permission, Ned had ordered a Mercedes for the family. Now he would have it Americanized with parts from the States added on by an English enterpreneur who specialized in souping up Mercedes and providing them with eye-poping aluminum touring bodies, external exhaust pipes…., great disc wheels, and flaming scarlet upstery”.
    The car was first used to tour the Continent (France and Italy), thus it wheels were metric sized. The car and Emily’s party suffered in France because it was German made, while once returned to America, she similarly suffered under German speaking Americans because they thought the car was English by the display of British Automobile Club badge. If they only knew it came from their fatherland.

    • Michael, Thanks for the information, if that is the case it is likely to been customized by a racer and car dealer Gordon Watney as I mentioned in the text. Remodeling the Mercedes was one of his specilitys.

  9. Beverley Rae Kimes identified Post’s tourer to be a Mercedes as well. However, its mystery has just begun. Daimler planned for six-cylinder tourer for 1914, but came into production from 1918, model 28/95. So Post’s car was either one-off or a pre-production piece, with silmilar DF80 (six-sylinder)motor as installed in 2 of Daimler’s 1913 Grand Prix racers. Special orders and recycling happens, even then. Secondly, its Gordon Watney body might not have been totally new. E.M. could have requested Daimler to ship the car without a body, a common practice in its days, directly to Gordon Warney. I suspect that the touring body was off an earlier Gordon Watney custom job, not necessarily a Mercedes, and subsequently grafted onto the Post Mercedes. I like to think it is still among us, mistakenly reconstructed as post 1918 six-cylinder Mercedes. This bit of news might just set off a frenzy search, I hope so.

    • Michael, I suspected it was a Watney conversion as was mentioned in the text. Mercedes also built a 37/70 hp six-cylinder starting about 1907 that many are unaware of and it could have been one of these earlier chassis’ as he was well known for rebuilding older cars for resale.

      I have an excellent photo of a Watney De Dietrich that I will post in the future with a piece on the car dealer-racer when I can but together enough information covering him.

  10. True about 37/70 six. It was Whilhem Maybach’s work. Its six was 2 blocks of 3 cylinders each. It would have 2 pipes out of the side panel, as I have seen photos of. Additionally it had dual chain driven rear axle.
    Post’s Mercedes had 3 exhausts out of its side panel, consistant with the later Paul Daimler’s six, 3 blocks of 2 cylinders each, thus 3 exhaust extentions out of the side panel. Additionally it had the later shaft driven rear axle arrangement.

  11. Question from an Aussie, did Mercedes ever use three quarter elliptic rear springs and shaft drive?? and with three exhaust pipes it looks like it would have had three blocks of two cylinders .
    Reading the book seems to indicate that the car was shipped from USA to England to be bodies by Gordon Watney , why I have no idea ! it is not a very practical body and i just cannot imagine the very sedate Emily climbing over the side every time she wants to get in or out

    Cheers

    Denis

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