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Mr Roe’s Locomobile and “Glorifier” Ice Boat Ice

We are sorry to be posting today’s feature so late in the day, but yesterday, last evening, and this morning a strong windstorm, a bit of snow, and a cold front passed through, and we are without power or an internet connection again due to fallen trees. After traveling quite a distance to use an internet connection we are able to write and publish today’s abbreviated feature.

The 1904 Locomobile and the motor-powered Ice Boat belonged to a Mr. Roe and he, a friend, and his hired hand posed with both machines in Forest Lakes at an unidentified location (due to time constraints we will let the readers determine the place). This watercraft on ice runners was the second such machine he designed and built.

The “Glorifier” powered by a 20 h.p. air-cooled engine followed by a clutch and gearbox was a versatile machine. In the fair weather months, with the addition of a drive shaft and propellor the dual-purpose boat could be run on open water. In addition, it could be used year round on the water and when reaching ice the “Glorifier Gripping Device” attached to a windlass in the vessel could be used to pull it along on the ice.

Share with us what you find of interest in the photographs courtesy of the Empire State Digital Network via the DPLA.

31 responses to “Mr Roe’s Locomobile and “Glorifier” Ice Boat Ice

  1. It appears the engine & transmission are mounted on a frame supprted by trunnions under the engine, the rear of the frame can be lifted & lowered by the long lever, allowing the large studded wheel to drive the boat over ice?? What about the spoked wheel possibly attached to the front of the crankshaft? And the handcrank on the axle of the studded wheel?

  2. I believe this is Patchogue. There’s a late 19th-century hand-drawn map of the town that lists a J. B. Roe and J. R. Swezey among the residents, it had an Ocean Avenue, and apparently a Forest Lakes Realty was selling property around Canaan Lake (North Patchogue) in 1907, based on advertisements in the Patchogue-Medford library collection.

      • Tom, I’m just glad to be able to contribute, since I’m less knowledgeable about the actual cars than most of the other people here. I luckily have some training in research, and that last photo provides good information to hunt on, with the signs for Roe’s garage, J R Swezey’s livery & boarding stable, and O B Satterly’s bicycle shop. (As an aside, I found information on Satterly today – that’s presumably Orville Bertus Satterly, 1872-1937, born in Patchogue, died in Patchogue, and buried in the Waverly Street Cemetery in Patchogue).

        In this case, what I did was look for Roe and J R Swezey to be referenced together, which led me to the library collection’s listing of the map (I actually started by looking for Roe, Swezey, and Satterly to all be referenced, but didn’t find anything, so I removed Satterly). Knowing that people with the right names lived in Patchogue, I looked for anything tying Forest Lakes Realty to the area, and found the newspaper ad for the Canaan Lake area. It’s still circumstantial, but having all three names from the signs and the realty company associated with the Patchogue area is fairly solid.

        Interestingly, the Detroit Public Library has a photograph of this same area circa 1912, Resource ID number na026726, that’s marked on the back as “Tours – Glidden Tour, 1912.” That threw me a bit, since that year’s (unofficial) tour ran from Detroit to New Orleans. My guess is that it’s from the 1911 run, which went from New York to Jacksonville in October 1911.

    • No, it has upper inlet valves (automatic may be). and side exhausts you can see the camshaft gears at right side of engine…

  3. That Locomobile looks so advanced for 1904, a restored one today would get you from London to Briton is quick time I’m sure. Bob

  4. I have a feeling the front wheel is used for steering purposes on ice as it seems to have studs as well. Brave men driving that car and that boat in winter without much in face protection! Frostbitten noses and ears come to mind.

  5. That Locomobile is a great looking car, do we have an ID on the model and the mechanical details? Would the air cooled engine in the ice boat be a Franklin by any chance? Mr Roe clearly wasn’t short of money, I love how he spent it!

    • From the length of the hood, I think the Locomobile is a 4-cylinder Model D, of which the Locomobile Society lists 149 made in 1904 (car numbers 78-223 and 225-227). The engine of a 1904 D is a straight 4 of 4″ bore and 5″ stroke with a 900 rpm cruising rate. The official rating was 16 hp, but Locomobile’s catalog claimed they didn’t approve an engine unless it produced at least 22 bhp in testing, and that some produced 24 bhp. The wheelbase is 86″, 10″ longer than the 2-cylinder Model C.

  6. It looks to me as if it would take half a day to configure for ice and vice versa for water. I’m trying to figure how it steers; is the steering wheel connected to the front spoked wheel for ice steering? That would require TWO water-proof doors. Surely the rudder is not located near the front, so the steering would somehow have to be on a v-joint or turned around for water. I dunno, it appears that it was engineered just past the point of not working. Or maybe I can’t see the forest for the trees.
    Anyway, hats off to Mr. Roe! Looks like something I might design.

  7. What at first sight indeed looks like a Locomobile, becomes more complicated at a closer inspection. The radiator indeed is very much Locomobile, but a first indication that something is ‘wrong’ is that the hood doesn’t fit. Also it lacks louvres, is longer than expected for a model D Locomobile and is held by two straps. Other differences are the inverse T sectioned forged spring horns, the sprocket wheels and the front and rear fender shape. The cross-bar between the spring horns at the front is missing and the front axle seems to be very heavy stuff, unlike the curved Locomobile front axle.
    So my thought is that the car could have been a heavily modified older car. These type of spring horns were common in Europe on some of the larger cars of the early twentieth century like Mors, Georges Richard and Vinot & Deguingand. So what if the car is a heavily modified Mors racer, of which several were present in the US at the time? Foxhall Keene had one, as did William Vanderbilt. It would explain the spring horns and the sprocket wheel. The older coal scuttle hood could have been replaced by a Locomobile type radiator and an improvised cover. And the front axle by a heavy duty one. Feasible theory or not?

  8. “Nat Roe has been granted a patent for an ice and water boat.” Source: The Suffolk County news., August 09, 1907, Page 2. From this, I found the July 7, 1907 U.S. Patent Number 859,693 which states in part the following.

    “I have produced a motor propelled ice yacht or scooter adapted to skim over ice and plunge into and across water spaces and air-holes with scarcely diminished speed. As an ice motor yacht it is safety controlled under high speed and affords a lively recreation to pleasure seekers and in the event of it plunging into the water in soft ice or open water leads, it would float the same as a boat and could be gotten out by means of ice hooks used to lift its runners on the ice. ”

    Nathaniel Roe (1876 – 1957) owned a steel tape factory in Patchogue, and he had over 70 patents to his name at the time of his death. Steel tape refers to what we call tape measures today. He lived in Patchogue, New York his whole life.

    His obituary stated in part the following. “Shortly after the turn of the century the noted inventor designed an ice boat and later set a new speed record of more than 100 miles per hour. This was considered to be the fastest speed ever attained by man up until that date.” … “Mr. Roe was the owner of one of the first cars in this area and also was a prominent figure in bicycle racing circles.” Source: The Patchogue advance., January 17, 1957, Page 7

    The patent can be easily viewed on the Google patent website by searching for” nathaniel roe Ice and water boat” in the search box.

    I do not believe the boat in the photo above is the one used for the speed record. A much sleeker boat with a bigger engine in shown in the February 10, 1912 issue of Forest and Stream magazine which states the following regarding this boat. “The motor scooter, built by Nat Roe for service on Great South Bay, has made 90 miles an hour, gone over 100 feet of open water and coasted over a mile after power was shut off. She is 20 feet long, 4 feet wide, driven by a 35-horsepower Fiat motor. She is propelled by a spiked wheel fitted in the centerboard trunk.” There is a photo of this boat with the article.

    An ad in The New York Dramatic Mirror from April 9, 1910, Page 19, lists a film entitled “Ice Skaters on Lake Ronkonkoma.” The description is, “A series of most exciting pictures of the fastest boat on earth, jumping water holes in the ice at the rate of eighty-five miles per hour. Nat Roe’s motor ice boat, capable of running 120 miles an hour.”

    Scientific American went so far to say that the boat could be driven home over snow covered roads in the February 12, 1910 issue.


    Adding on to the info from “Steve K” above, the Patchogue, New York location is further confirmed by multiple other sources. An ad in the June 7, 1908 New York Tribune shows that in addition to the livery stables he was selling carriages. The 1910 U.S. Census where J.R. Swezey is identified as John R. Swezey being the proprietor of a livery, and a report in a journal called “The Spokesman and Harness World” from September 1909 suggests that he was soon going to be selling automobiles in his establishment. An advertisement shows he was selling Studebaker carriages in 1912.

    In 1913 he would go on to found the John R. Swezey Automobile Company in Patchogue, with Nathaniel Swezey, his brother, and Ella Swezey, his wife. A 1916 ad shows that he was selling Chalmers cars. The 1920 U.S. Census shows Swezey was indeed in the automobile business. I found an ad from 1929 that shows he was selling Chrysler and Chandler cars, and he also had Franklin, Pierce-Arrow, and Packard franchises at various times. Swezey remained in business until his death when he was selling tires and he also owned an appliance store.

    Swezey served as a Patchogue Village Trustee multiple times, the first of which was in 1914. He was the major of Patchogue multiple times in addition to being heavily involved in many civic organizations.

    • Volume 16 No. 8 of The Automobile (February 21, 1907) also has some details on the “motor scooter.”

      Roe took a 14-foot scooter with sharp prow and half rounded stern and fitted a 20 horsepower French engine that had previously been used in an airship. It was mounted on rubber pads to minimize vibration and only attached at one point. The wheel came from a bicycle, and had case-hardened steel studs welded on. Steering was by a steel rudder that was normally out of contact with the ice, but turning the steering column would bring it in contact (this sounds horribly inefficient to me, but I’m no expert on ice boats). The wheel casing “is the same as that of a centerboard” and is said to be waterproof. At that time, the scooter had only been tested up to 60 miles per hour, and Roe was planning to adjust the gearing to try to reach 100, so apparently he achieved that within the next couple years of the article. In February 1907, five scooters were on order to be built (presumably by Roe, though the article doesn’t explicitly state this).

      The photograph in The Automobile also looks a bit different from the one above. It only shows the area from the prow to the steering wheel, rather than the full scooter, but the scooter appears much lighter, with the hull only coming about 1/3 of the way up the driving wheel. The windlass appears to be gone, and the metal frame on the left side of the engine is very different, made of at least three pieces and shaped rather than the slabs in this article.

  9. Great sleuthing you guys, there’s a newspaper article (The times dispatch., February 24, 1907, SPORTING SECTION, Page 3) showing ‘Nat’ in a much racier ice boat and an interesting one on him hiring detectives to warn of speed traps (New-York tribune., July 17, 1905, Page 3)

  10. Behind the motor “appears to be” a transmission, possibly machine shop fabricated . then, there is the right angle pinion gear driving a ring gear to the studded drive – wheel in the “center-board” slot . beneath the steering wheel appears to be a hand-operated throttle with a speed -setting “Quadrant” Metal handle . To the left , a wood handled long clutch lever- arm with side & forward linkage. Farther to the Port side next to the Gunwale ,or :”Gunnel” spray- diverter rail is a mystery wood handle in the foreground of the photo, which might be a reverse -gear lever (?) the “s” curved handle (wood) on the 90 deg. shaft which would require a sliding dog clutch for the drive wheel , if used to crank the engine. ? Even so, the crank itself would require a one way release ratchet . Steering: I see side runners on the hull, for “straight – ahead’ The front spoked wheel might be part of a gear reduction for a another right angle bevel gear set shaft to move a cross-arm to pivot a “bobsled ” front runner set” ? Note: too many “W.A.G.’s” without seeing the patent drawing. Some of this looks clever. some of it looks like: “An answer to a question that no-one asked . Note: Large spiked wheels have been used in Motorcycle J.A.P., & I. L.O. engined Ice Racing Edwin W.

  11. Of Course all you non Longlindlers know how to pronounce Patchogue and Ronkonkoma properly. North Ocean Ave still exists and is a main road.

  12. A complete description of the ice boat or motor scooter as it was called then was given in the February 21 issue of The Automobile. Interestingly the 20 hp engine was taken from a French airship! The boat had travelled at 60 miles an hour on hard snow and was thought to be capable of 100 miles with higher gearing. Future customers were thought to be Jefferson de Mont Thompson, Harry Payne-Whitney and A.R. Pardington, so our Nathaniel Roe apparently had a good entrance in the Vanderbilt circle!

  13. I agree with Ariejan Bos, this Locomobile has been heavily modified with the addition of a larger engine and probably
    a different transmission. The hood has no louvers indicating that the engine was cooled by a fly wheel fan and the drive
    sprockets are not of the Locomobile type. The front frame horns look to be 1904 Locomobile but missing the front cross
    bar which supported the crank. The crank appears to have a pointed handle accompanied by a compression release.
    Otherwise , the chassis looks to be Locomobile in particular the shortened steering column which can be see on page
    10 of The Old Motor subject of Locomobile which shows a picture of my grandfather’s 1904 model D, a special called
    The Pup.

  14. On March 14th 1907 The Automobile reported that the Motor Scooter Club of America had been formally organized with many prominent Long Island and New York members.
    To underline that Roe wasn’t the first with this ideas, in the March 21st issue of the same magazine it was reported that in the winter of 1904-05 Chas. G. Ketcham of Eastport, L.I., had fitted “an ordinary scow with a two-cycle, 3-horsepower gasoline motor, connected direct by a belt to a large spiked wheel …” It was based on the same ideas as Roe’s motor scooter, “but in a rough and unfinished manner.”

  15. Between the two photos depicting the car, one may notice that the front fenders do not match. This could be evidence of a modification, in progress. I once owned a chassis of a Model I Locomobile Baby Tonneau, which had a straight front axle, apparently factory-made. It closely resembled the straight rear axle, and the car was supposed to have been used in the Nevada desert. I believe that there are pictures of straight front axle Locos in The Locomobile Book, 1911. If not this year, then the year following. It would not take a lot of imagination to believe that a resident of Long Island might order a non-standard axle from the Bridgeport, Conn. factory, especially if one desired to drive their auto “off the beaten path.”

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