An Entertaining & Informative Vintage Automobile Internet Magazine

Middleweight Boxing Champion Stanley Ketchel and a 1908 American Underslung

Boxer Stanley Ketchel and a Sporty American Underslung

Updated – Middleweight Boxing Champion Stanley Ketchel and his agent Britt Willis are seen here being photographed in a 1907 or 1908 American Underslung 40 h.p. model roadster. The machine was offered in 1907 on a short 106-inch w.b. and in 1908 on a longer 116-inch chassis. The location was in front of the Dana Photography Studio in San Francisco, CA, and the image was taken in 1908.

Update – Between the two lower images.

It appears that when driving Ketchel liked to be seen and heard because the car is fitted with a large horn on top of the cowl. In addition, on the drivers side below the cowl can be seen an added whistle that is piped to operate with gases from the exhaust system. The scorched paint on the side of the hood suggests that it has suffered from an under hood carburetor fire. The two enlargeable images below show the car in great detail. You can view many more underslung cars of all types here. 

The photo is from a glass plate negative and is courtesy of Shorpy. It was part of the collection of George Whitney Jr., owner of the famous San Francisco eatery, the Cliff House restaurant between 1937 and 1977.

amer2

horn

Update – Reader Jeff Harper asked if the horn on top of the American cowl was an electric horn or possibly a siren. Ariejan Bos sent in a couple of advertisements that lead us in the right direction to find the Leavitt Siren Horn, pictured (above) that was found in the Auto Trade Journal July 1906, issue. It appears to be an earlier version of the unit on Ketchel’s car.  The design originated in France.

amer3

13 responses to “Boxer Stanley Ketchel and a Sporty American Underslung

  1. When I first looked at this one I thought it was missing one of the side levers but then realised both levers are exactly in line. It would be interesting to know what has been removed from the side of the car. You can see the sign of a three bolt bracket between the levers and the whistle.

  2. I wonder what the whistle control valve looks like and, if the whistle is powered by exhaust gases, how they got enough pressure and volume through the small tube hooked to the whistle to operate it?

    • Charlie, My thoughts were the same when I first looked at it. I think the only way it might have worked is if there was some kind of valve to close off most of the exhaust and divert it to the whistle.

      The only other way is if compression was used, but if so one would think the line would run towards the engine.

  3. Well that’s a first for me. A boat horn! So that’s not a tube but a flexible cable/shaft rather like a speedometer cable which drives the horn, Ketchel probably had the friction control mounted somewhere on the floorboard.

  4. The whistle on the side does have a small diameter pipe to it and its design suggest it was intended for high pressure air or steam. Most cars of this time, especially expensive ones, had an air pump for changing tires. I suspect there is an air tank underneath that is pressurized by the installed compressor for blowing the whistle. This car may also have a compressed air starter installed; a common accessory on larger engined cars prior to the electric designs in 1912.

  5. A newbie question: What are the things that look like inner tube valve stem covers found in multiple places on the wheels? Do they fasten the rim to the wooden wheel?

    • Bill, They are for fasteners that hold tire lugs which are a wing shaped piece of metal, inside the tire. The lugs keep a clincher tire on the rim is case of a loss of air pressure.

  6. The Siren Horn with options is impressive, but ALSO take note of the Stevens/Galton “STEM” Whistle on the RHS! It appears to be operated by compressed air, (in this case). A Galton Whistle can provide 140 dB of sound power and MUCH more IF correctly modified ! The advantage of the Galton Whistle over the siren — is that its FULL sound is INSTANT–=-IF pressure is available. Multi -toned Galton whistles are common on American Steam Locomotives, — typically DIS -chordantly “Tuned” to draw attention !!! Edwin -30 – NOTE: A small “on board” air compressor was not un-common for tire inflation, on the more expensive cars. (Whistle power source!).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *