An unknown local photographer snapped this photo of the New York-Paris Protos at the moment of its departure from Ogden, UT on the morning of April 3, 1908. The small but curious crowd opens a way onto the street as driver Owen Snyder reaches for the gear lever. The man in the passenger seat was colorful local resident Charles Orson Wheat.
Charlie Wheat had seen many things in his long life. He was the youngest rider on record with the fabled Pony Express when just barely a teenager. As a surveyor, he helped map the route of the Transcontinental Rail Road through Utah and Nevada and finished his working life as a locomotive engineer for the Southern Pacific. Having been hired by all the previous New York-Paris contestants that made it to Ogden, he was now enjoying a short career as a guide for people trying to drive automobiles around the world. On in years and blind in one eye, nobody knew the route around the Great Salt Lake into Nevada better than Charlie Wheat. Just before climbing behind the wheel of the Protos, a local newspaper reporter asked the German-born Snyder for his comments on the race. His answer was short and telling. “Mein Gott, it is no race, but an expense endurance test.”