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Tell Us the Backstory Behind These Five Intriguing Images

Moorehouse Midget 1934

Many interesting photos are in The Old Motor Archives that either have been purchased over the years or have been sent in by readers. It is impossible to find the time to run the website, the shop and spend the time to do the necessary research and identify all of these images.

This is where you, our knowledgeable readers can help out. Starting today, a new feature series will be run on occasion that will help to get these photos identified and at the same time be enjoyable. Any notations or captions will be shared and if you can add anything to the backstory, please do.

  • The lead photo found by Marc Tudeau at the Libary of Congress shows the “Moorehouse Midget” at a CBS radio show in 1934. What was this performance and can you tell us more the “Little Mystery” car? More “Baby Cars” can be viewed here. 

old antique vintage road striping operation

  • This image from Marc Tudeau appears to show a beat up old Chalmers? It is part of a road striping operation with a rig that might be either a make do contraption or it could be built by a manufacturer. Note the guide on the front wheel of the car, the well-made axles on the cart and the striping device. Can you tell us more about both vehicles? 

Jesse James Buick and Trailer

  • The outlaw Jesse James was killed in 1882, but this traveling show tells us he was still alive in the 1930s. Does anyone know who ran this show or can you tell us more about the Buick or the trailer?

Old Vintage Antique lozier car and a Model T

  • This photo from Walter Miller appears to be staged and shows a Model “T” Ford on top of a Lozier. Note the small step ladder behind the car, the device the man in the middle is holding and more of them on the left side of the photo on the ground. What is going on here and what is the year and model of the Lozier?

Oldsmobile Clay Models

  • This photo shows clay modelers at work on two different styling concepts. The models are identified as being Oldsmobiles. Can anyone confirm this, and tell us the year it was taken?  

12 responses to “Tell Us the Backstory Behind These Five Intriguing Images

  1. The Little Mystery was built and owned by Kenneth Morehouse, of Detroit, Michigan. Morhouse was an engineer with the Ford Motor Company when, in 1926, he designed a dual-carbureted 8-cylinder engine with self-starter and 4-speed transmission. He squeezed the powerful engine between two short chassis rails on a 52-inch wheelbase and then built a car body to fit. More than $9,000 and three years of evenings later, the 625-pound midget racer was completed. The car proved equal in performance to Gus Petzel’s Midget Special (highlighted earlier on The Old Motor) when it achieved a speed of 91.2 miles per hour at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on December 29, 1931. Morehouse insisted he could have reached 130 miles per hour if only the Speedway track had been an entirely straight-line course. Morehouse paraded his Little Mystery in front of the aircraft industry with hopes of winning contracts to supply his powerful engine for use in airplanes. He had little success getting noticed until he married Anna Lee Hershey, of the Hershey Chocolate family. The couple announced plans to use the little car on their honeymoon trip and their journey was highly publicized. The groom traveled from the comfort of the driver’s seat while the bride straddled a hand-tooled saddle strapped to the hood.

  2. That midget racer is the “Little Mystery” built and raced by Kenneth Morehouse. He touted it as the smallest and fastest auto in the world under 1000 pounds. From the Reading PA Times, July 17, 1931:

    “Under Its tiny hood, Little Mystery has four cylinders, of special construction. The engine is air cooled. There Is dual ignition with two carburetors. The midget has six speeds four forward and two in reverse. It is one of very few racing cars with a self starter. Speed? Listen. In 1929 at the Indianapolis Speedway, Morehouse broke the world’s record. He had his car up to 101 miles per hour on the staright – aways. The little wheels have to make 37 revolutions every second. The machine is the only car to be transported by airplane fully assembled. Morehouse drove the car Into a big Ford Plane at Akron and flew with it to Canton. At the present time, Morehouse is working on a midget airplane. ”

    Why did this catch my eye? My own surname is Morehouse.

    Tom M.

  3. The “Jesse James” car is a somewhat weary looking 1934 or ’35 (virtually identical) Buick Club Sedan. Think it is a Series 60 (128″ wheelbase). I have a different photo of this same rig, parked in front of the Wiggins Theater, in what is probably Paris, Arkansas. There were numerous Jesse James imposters, many of whom are well known to historians by their “real name.” But just who this Jesse James traveling by Buick really was seems to be a mystery. The only mention I’ve found online that seems to correlate to this image is a 1948 news story from the Joplin, Missouri “Globe” newspaper. It states, “Ten years ago “Jesse James” appeared at Columbia, Ky., in a motor car and trailer, offered $5,000 to anyone who could prove he wasn’t Jesse James. No one tried to dispute his word because he left town after a talk with a U. S. deputy marshal.” That would have been about 1938, which is probably about the latest that your photo and mine of the Buick and trailer could have been taken.

  4. This “Jesse James” is pictured, along with the car and trailer, in the January 30, 1939 issue of “Life” magazine, page 43. The Buick looks like a 1934 Series 90 5-passenger Club Sedan or 1935 Limited Club Sedan.

    Multiple people have claimed to be the outlaw Jesse James who was killed on April 3, 1882. In 1937 a, ” . . . claimant showed up – in a trailer. He went back to Columbia, Ky., to see the bank he had supposedly done business with 65 years before. Once he had ridden like the wind; now he had to bumble along in a trailer. It was very touching. However, the idea seems to have worked out all right for he got a job with the Russell Brothers circus where he added a new touch: he told how, in disguise , he had attended his own funeral. No previous Jesses had thought of that.” Source: Homer Croy, “Jesse James Was My Neighbor;” Maryville [Missouri] Daily Forum; August 11, 1949; Section 2, Page 1

    This claimant, “William John James” or “John James” started his claims about 1932. The James family were outraged by his claims, they brought one of the real Jesse James’s boots to him, but he couldn’t fit his foot into the actual boot or recall basic family information. This did not stop him though. In his stage act he often appeared with Hank Farris and Ann Alexander who performed “sensational trick and fancy rope act” with him. Admission was 10 – 15 cents. He continued the claim until his death in a mental hospital in Little Rock, Arkansas on December 26, 1947. No one came to bury the body.

    As early as February, 1932 his claims were already coming into question. Gustave Wiedmaier, a Portland, Oregon storekeeper, who was attending public school by the home where James was killed, actually saw James’ dead body around noon the same day of his death. “The man I saw in the undertaker’s office was [James], and there were plenty of witnesses there then who identified [him].” Source: “Portland Man Insists He, When A Boy, Saw Jesse James Dead;” The Tyrone (PA.) Daily Herald; 45th Year, No. 13,664; Monday, February 15, 1932, Page 3

  5. Thanks to Ace Zenek’s well-documented research, we now know who the “Jesse James” that traveled by Buick was for certain. However, I must disagree with the description of the 1935 Buick Series 90 line as Limited models. The assertion that Buick introduced its series “names” in 1935, rather than 1936, is based—as far as I can tell after 40 years of researching Buicks—solely on mistaken information published in the first (1973) edition of Crestline’s “Seventy Years of Buick.” Official period information published by Buick, including Master Parts Books, sales brochures, ads and the “Buick Magazine” house organ did not use series names, but only numerical designations, for the 1935 series. Also, NADA and Branham used car guides from the period do not indicate series names for the 1935 models, but do show them for 1936. I wouldn’t mention this, except that this is the second time just this week that the issue has come up, so I know the inaccurate 1935 information in Crestline’s otherwise generally excellent Buick book is still causing confusion. Incidentally, I remember discussing this subject with the book’s author at Hershey in 1975— he acknowledged at the time that the 1935 information was erroneous. I don’t know if later editions were corrected or not.

  6. Mr. Boyce, thanks for the correction regarding the 1935 Buicks. The field of automobile research is greatly enhanced by having people like you willing to share their knowledge. – Ace

  7. The “Jesse James” travel trailer appears to be a slightly customized version of a 1936 or 37 Conestoga. They were very popular trailers in the ’30’s. The hitch looks like an automotive adaptation to what we know today as a fifth wheel. Conestoga made a line of fifth wheel trailers in the late 30’s that were mated to a customized Plymouth four door although Conestoga would also customize other vehicles for the customer. This was at the height of the Depression, and Conestoga did everything they could to stay alive. I believe the original company survived until the early 50’s before folding. There are a line of truck trailers now that use the Conestoga name but they aren’t related to the original company.

  8. O know this page is three years old but I came back to it looking for the origins of the early road marking photo further up. A copy of this had been posted on a New Zealand facebook page and discussion was that it was not NZ but more likely the US. Many didn’t realise that earlier US cars were right hand drive.

    Did any more info turn up about the car or its location?

    While here I saw the Buick photo and felt the need to comment that I am sure that is a Series 60 car and not a 90. They both used the same size tyres. – 75.0 x 16.

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