The first organized auto races held at the Empire City Track in Yonkers, New York, appear to have run on Memorial Day of 1903. Almost two months later on July 25, 1903, 6,000 spectators, who drove over 1,000 cars to the track packed the grandstand to watch nine races on the program.
The seventh race was the 15-Mile Free-For-All Race with the following entries: The 80 h.p. Gordon Bennett Peerless driven by Charles Wridgway, Jules Sincholle in a 40 h.p. Darracq, George Papillion drove a 35 h.p. Darracq (40 h.p. is listed on the trophy), a 70 h.p. Panhard was piloted by T. Troger, and Henri Page was behind the wheel in a 40 h.p. Decauville.
- F.A. La Roche of the American Darracq Automobile Co. in a 30 h.p. racer at the event.
The Peerless suffered from a leaky cooling system and overheated after only a mile. The Panhard in the lead from the start dropped out after 2.5 miles with a broken valve spring. The 40 h.p. Darracq lost a rear tire tread but continued on. Henri Page in the Decauville then held the lead until the end, with George Papillion in the Darracq in second place and Sincholle in his Darracq third.
Henri Page won the $100 silver first place trophy and George Papillion the $50 silver-plate trophy we see here. Research turned up that Papillion had driven in racing events for Darracq in Europe before coming to the U.S., but was only found listed as an entrant in one more event after the Empire City Races.
The details of the races complete with photographs can be found in The Automobile July 27, 1903 issue in a three-page article complete with photographs. F.A. La Roche, the head of the American Darracq Automobile Company can be seen above in a 30 h.p. car. We were unable to find a photo of Papillion’s car that is assumed to be a slightly larger version of the 30 h.p. car.
- A detail photo of the engraving on the 15-Mile Free-For-All Race Trophy.
111 years later Papillion’s 1903 Empire City 12-inch tall racing trophy turned up at an estate sale last year in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The buyer contacted us at the time about the trophy that was going to be sent to an auction house in New York City. Last week it turned up at the Chickasha, Oklahoma Prewar Swap Meet and Donald Lang of Lang’s Old Car Parts was able to purchase it there and brought it back to the East Coast.
It appears that Papillion earlier raced for Darracq in Europe according to a reference that was found. If any of our readers can add more to this story or find a photo of Papillion and his car, please send us a comment.
- The action at the earlier Memorial Day 1903 races, note the mechanics hanging off of the cars.
- The crowd and some of the 1000 cars on the lawn below in front of the Grandstands at the July race.
- American Darracq Automobile Company advertisement below, December 1903, Horseless Age.