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A True Early Barn Find – The Hermit’s Stanley Steamer

Updated – Most vintage car enthusiasts would love to find a desirable untouched and unknown car put away years ago that has survived in good original condition. It is still possible today, but it was easier in the pre-World War II days.

This find of an early small eight or ten h.p. Stanley Steam car took place outside of Annapolis, Maryland on March 19, 1944. Smith Hempstone Oliver, who took these images, also reported about it in the VMCCA “Bulb Horn” magazine at the time. Our early issues of this club publication are packed away, but some of the circumstances involved in this acquisition come to mind.

The car was owned by the elderly bearded gentleman Oliver referred to as the Hermit, who lived on the property. The Stanley had been stored for quite some time in his ancient barn and apparently one of the other men pictured in this series of images had purchased it. Since Charlie Tripp is the only person that was identified, and he was photographed with the Hermit in the lead photo, perhaps he was the new owner of the Stanley? Where is this car today?

This set of six photographs from the Smith Hempstone Oliver Collection are from the Smith Hempstone Oliver collection courtesy of The Revs Institute Research Library located at The Collier Collection.

Update – Thanks to Kelly Williams, keeper of the Stanley Register Online we now know that the steamer belonged to the original purchaser R. L. Lang (the hermit), and it had not been used since the early-teens. Lang sold the car for thirty-five silver dollars and it was eventually restored by James MacDermaid; the Stanley is now in Idaho. After Lang had died, all of the silver dollars were found in the bag.

Early 10 h.p. Stanley Steamer I

Early 10 h.p. Stanley Steamer

The Hermit's Stanley Steamer

Early 10 h.p. Stanley Steam Car

10 h.p. Stanley Steam Car

24 responses to “A True Early Barn Find – The Hermit’s Stanley Steamer

  1. “After Lang had died, all of the silver dollars were found in the bag.”

    I guess this is why many a person does not sell his “treasures”.

    You can always look and reminisce, but what can you do with the money?

    You don’t have to be rich to have all you desire.

  2. This car was fortunate. During WW2 when old cars like this were uncovered they more commonly went straight to the scrappers as part of the Wars scrap metal drives.

  3. I wonder if the old guy had ever taken his hat and coat off since he stopped driving the car? I wonder about the strings around the ankles. Maybe the pants are hand me downs from someone taller?

    Any guesses on the significance of the stripes on the jacket sleeves (Charles Tripp?) in the first photo? May be they were retrieved from a military uniform?

      • Gordon, you are correct, each hash mark is five years of service to Uncle Sam. as for the rating on his sleeve, I vote for either Navy or Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer, E6. It is possible he was either a Master Chief or Senior Chief, E7 or E8. Not enough of the patch is shown to determine the exact rank, nor his specialty. Both branches used essentially the same uniforms.

  4. Lovely photos. My guess is the negs are 5X7 and the photog had a better than average anastigmat like a Goerz Dagor, and knew what to do with it.

  5. I never tire looking at old photos like these, must have been great to be in the hobby 1935-55 when all the great cars were found. Bob

  6. I may be totally off the mark on this but doesn’t the fellow in the fedora in the next to the last photo with his hand in his pocket look an awful lot like Henry Austin C lark Jr. when he was young? He knew “Hemp” Oliver well, and most likely would have been invited along on this excursion if he was already out of the Navy at that time.

  7. I have been barn shopping most of my life ( now 80) just got home a 1912 Seagraves ladder truck it is 46′ long the thrill for me is to get them running, may happen tomorrow .
    Most of the barns are gone now but I still peek when I see one

  8. Not a car, I realise, but I know that some on here have an interest in two wheels as well. My brother (who lives in France) bought a 1922 Soyer 2 -1/2hp 2 speed bike from the family of it’s original owner (about 3 1/2 years ago) so he’s only its second registered owner on its ‘carte gris’ (Registration document).
    The original owner had been using it up until 15 – 20 years before that, then the bike had been in a shed from then on. At one time he used to travel from village to village sharpening tools with a grindstone fitted to the bike’s luggage rack. He’d park the bike in a village square on its rear wheel stand, then swap the belt for another one that reached the grindstone to drive it.
    After he died, the bike stayed in the shed for a while, then was sold by his son through a friend of his family who dealt in old bikes and parts at what you call swapmeets (in France ‘Bourses d’échanges’ in the UK ‘Autojumbles’) He brought it to an international event in the UK which my brother was over here for. My brother bought the bike. and took it back to SW France – only a stone’s throw from where it had been since ’22.
    The bike looks like a 90 odd year old bike should look, so it hasn’t been restored. It only needed tyres, brake blocks, and a new belt to get it on the road again. It starts first or second kick every time (it has done from the day he bought it) and runs beautifully around the lanes of the Languedoc on runs with the classic bike club my brother belongs to. As a point of interest, despite the Japs thinking they invented everything modern as far as bikes are concerned, this one is a two stroke, but has a separate oil reservoir and oil is fed direct to the bearings and cylinder wall. Suzuki crowed over Yamaha in the sixties because their two strokes did this when Yamaha’s autolube only injected oil into the inlet tract. This bike beat that by some forty years.

  9. I remember each “hash mark” being worth 4 years,not 5 although it might have been reduced by the time I was in. Also, the E8 and E9 (Senior Chief and Master Chief) classifications weren’t established till after the war along with all rates being on the left arm. In the old days some rates were left arm and some were right arm, like this one.

    • The Hermits car was taken to a museum for some years and eventually sold. I bought it from a man in Florida and took home a truck load of parts of the completely disassembled car in about 1989. Some parts were refinished when I got it including a new boiler. I have a few pictures of the progress and finished car. I drove it around Salt Lake City Utah regularly. These little 10 HP cars are fairly fast and fun to drive, and it was reliable.
      Lang was a Doctor and had his Name stenciled on the car in several locations, made visible when I stripped off the original dark green paint.

  10. Fred Marriott, who broke the land speed record at Daytona Beach in a Stanley in 1906, identified this car as a 1906 Stanley Model EX 10hp runabout. Charles Tripp did not have the car long before ownership was transferred to the Thompson Products Auto Album (now the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum), a museum in Cleveland, Ohio, where it remained by 1957, still not having been restored.

    Tripp was a naval lieutenant. He is wearing the cast-off jacket of a chief gunner’s mate for the sake of the dirty job of retrieving the Stanley.

    Information from an article by Smith Hempstone Oliver in the November, 1957, issue of The Veteran & Vintage Magazine.

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