One of the Most Important Prizes in Early Automotive History Returned After 96 Year Absence
ANDERSON, S.C. - The City of Anderson, South Carolina and AAA is celebrating the return of an important piece of early automobile history.
The object – arriving earlier in the week under a police escort from AAA headquarters in Heathrow, Fla. – is a beautiful and ornate silver punchbowl presented to AAA by the city in 1911. The trophy became one of several fabulous, perpetual prizes offered to participants in the famous Glidden Automobile Reliability Tours sponsored by AAA from 1904 to 1913, and has been in AAA’s possession ever since. The design of the trophy is especially noteworthy for its engraved image of the Anderson County Courthouse and carved renderings of AAA’s early logo. Its cost in 1911 was the then-extravagant sum of $1,200 (approximately $25,000 in today’s inflation adjusted dollars).
“The return of the Anderson Touring Trophy to its hometown after so many years is especially appropriate at this time in our city’s history,” said Mayor Terence Roberts. “So great was the need for improved infrastructure that money for the trophy was contributed by the citizens of Anderson to assist AAA in encouraging better roads and services for travelers, and to help put our community on the map. Today, our citizens are justifiably proud of the redevelopment efforts that are well underway in transforming Anderson into one of the state’s most attractive business and cultural centers.”
“AAA is pleased to be able to reunite the Anderson Touring Trophy with the citizens of Anderson and all the citizens of South and North Carolina,” said Thomas R. Crosby, AAA Carolinas vice president of public affairs. “The mobility we enjoy today in South Carolina is a direct result of the Glidden Automobile Reliability Tours and Anderson can forever be proud of its role in the history of improving the roads and services available to travelers in South Carolina and the entire East Coast.”
Quoting from a contemporary description of the 1911 Glidden Tour, Crosby said the route was…
“one of the longest and by far the most difficult ever selected. It was from New York to Jacksonville, Fla. (including a night stop in Anderson) over roads that ranged all the way from excellent to well – awful. The slippery red clay of the Carolinas was only surpassed in cussedness by the deep, shifting sands of Florida. In the tour several of America’s highest-priced cars ignominiously succumbed to the hardships of the roads – roads which, bad at their best, were indescribably bad on account of the torrential rains which fell during the tour.”
The 1911 tour was run from Oct. 13 to the 26th, covered 1,476 miles and was described by AAA as the most grueling, toughest tour that had been undertaken. Many of the vehicles floundered at swollen water crossings or in seas of mud. Overnight stops were made at Philadelphia and Gettysburg, Penn., Staunton and Roanoke, Va., Winston-Salem and Charlotte, N.C., Anderson, S.C., Atlanta and Cordele, Ga. and Live Oak, Fla. before reaching Jacksonville. The winning team was fielded by the Maxwell Motor Car Co., and was driven by Governor Hoke Smith of Georgia, who won not only the Glidden Trophy, but the Anderson Trophy as well.
The AAA Glidden Tours were named for wealthy industrialist and automotive pioneer, Charles Jasper Glidden, who encouraged AAA to organize and host the tours by offering the Glidden Trophy in 1905. The first AAA Automobile Reliability & Endurance Tour of 1904 offered no cash prizes or trophies. The tours proved to be one of the most important activities undertaken by the fledgling motoring association, proving not only the reliability of the automobile and the need for better roads, but by promoting the expansion and formation of AAA clubs nationwide.
The Anderson Touring Trophy will be on public display in Anderson for one year. Afterwards AAA and the city will alternate custody of the trophy every other year.
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