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November 08, 2005


James Merrick

The Stanley racer was driven by Fred Marriott (note spelling) to a new land speed record in the mile at 127.66 mph on January 26, 1906. Marriott also set a new world's record at the kilometer distance at 121.57 the same day. Some sources allege that the international racing federation in France did not recognize Marriott's record in the mile, which was the first time an automobile had exceeded two miles per minute, but most historians today consider that to be irrelevant for what was a sanctioned American event. Marriott also set new records at five miles, one mile (in competition), and at two miles - although the latter was eclipsed by an illegally-equipped car in a controversial decision.

The steam racer was built by the Stanley Motor Carriage Company of Newton, Massachusetts. The early aerodynamic body of the car was derived from a modified canoe model built by the John R. Robertson canoe works in Auburndale (part of Newton), Massachusetts. The term "Stanley Steamer" is a misnomer - a "steamer" is a generic name for a steam car, and the Stanley manufacturer and its vehicles were not actually called by that name.

James Merrick, Archivist
Stanley Museum
Kingfield, Maine


It’s great that more people are focusing on making better environmental choices. Plus technology is making it more economical now, and that’s what people really notice. Wind energy, solar power, hybrids and zap EV’s, our choices are good. There are now electric cars being sold everyday, you just plug it into a regular power outlet. When people test drive them they say it’s far more fun to drive an EV.

Kye Hillig

Ok,but one article refers to another race between Baldwin and Marriott,September 15th of o7,and says they both raced Newton automobiles.Please clarify what these gentlemen were driving in the 1907 race.I am a LeMay Museum docent and I am fascinated by steam cars but I am restoring a 1931 Ford Victoria.Last August I missed a Steam Car Meet here in the Seattle area on Lake Union,my loss and I regret not stretching my schedual to at least swing by that meet.Who ever has posted this information,Thank you,Sincerely,Kye Hillig.

James Merrick

Leon F.N. Baldwin and Fred Marriott were driving special Stanley steam racers at the Readville Track in Boston on September 15, 1907. The event was a one-mile exhibition race for steam cars. In the first heat Baldwin set a world's competition track record at 54 2/5 seconds; Marriott was forced to withdraw with boiler trouble.

The men were driving special Stanley "Vanderbilt" racers: 30 HP steam cars designed for competing in long-distance events - specifically the 1906 Vanderbilt Cup race held on Long Island, NY. The Stanley company built two of these special cars, neither of which actually competed in the race for which they were built (they were not ready in time). They did compete in numerous beach races (e.g.: Ormond Beach, Fla.; Old Orchard Beach, Me.), hill climbs (e.g.: Dead Horse Hill, Worcester, Mass.; Giant's Despair, Wilkes-Barre, Penn.) and track events(e.g.: Readville, Mass.; Narragansett Park, Providence, RI) between 1906 and 1911.

Legends exist that the cars were barred from competition with gas cars on the grounds that their visible steam exhaust was a race hazard, but there is little documentary evidence for this. Steamers were often officially excluded from open races with gas cars, and in later years were restricted to steam-only exhibition races at most motor sports events.

Neither of the two original Stanley "Vanderbilt" cars exist, but more than eight replicas have been constructed by enthusiasts in recent years. One replica is owned by Jay Leno, who was famously stopped for speeding while driving it on an LA freeway.

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