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Photo of the Week


"How shall we know it is us without our past?"
- John Steinbeck

by Wendy Polhemus-Annibell, Librarian

Suffolk County Fair Auto Races, Riverhead, 1920. More than two thousand people attended the automobile races at the Riverhead Fairgrounds on May 31, 1920. Capt. Robert F. Wells of Stony Brook, owner of the Essex, took first prizes in all three races of the day, according to a report in The Long Islander. The first event was a one-mile race on a half-mile track, which the Essex completed in 76.5 seconds, breaking all speed records at the time. In the second event, a 25-mile race, the Essex won by two laps over the entire field (the actual First Prize cup is shown below). Capt. Wells, an auto dealer of the Essex, noted his confidence in the vehicle, but was "surprised to see the amount of reserve power and quick getaway" it could obtain in the race. His service manager, Frank Gumbus, was said to have handled the Essex in the Riverhead races "with great coolness."

According to local automotive historian Bob Barauskas, it's unclear which Essex model participated in the 1920 race. For that model year, there were four Essex models available: a two-door Roadster, a four-door Touring Car, a four-door Sedan, and a two-door Cabriolet. The Essex Motor Company of Detroit, Michigan, began with the Hudson Motor Company. Initially, the company had its own sponsoring organization, the Essex Motor Company, which first leased a factory in Detroit in 1917 to build the affordable car. By 1918, the company had built ninety-two Essex cars (as 1919 models), and by 1922, both Essex and Hudson were being manufactured under the Hudson Motor Car Company. More than 1.13 million Essex automobiles were sold by the time the Essex name was retired in 1932.

"First Prize Win by Essex" with detail. (Courtesy of Automotive Historian Bob Barauskas.)


The Suffolk County Historical Society’s PHOTO OF THE WEEK Series is created by librarian Wendy Polhemus-Annibell using historic primary source materials from our local history library’s extensive archives. To subscribe, visit our website or send an email request to Wendy at wannibell@schs-museum.org.

Interested in seeing more historical photos from the Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society? Spend an afternoon at our Local History Library perusing our extensive archival photography collections. We're open Weds. - Sat., 12:30 - 4:30 PM.

To view our Photo of the Week archives, visit our website at www.SuffolkCountyHistoricalSociety.org.

Upcoming BOOK & BOTTLE Events at SCHS

June 22: Kevin Fitzpatrick, Camp Upton Centennial
July 27: Jeremy Dennis, Indigenous People of the Twin Forks
Aug. 24: William Konstant, Recovery of the Bald Eagle
Oct. 7: Bob Giffen, One Little River & Sportsmen's Club
Nov. 2:  Kerriann Brosky, Historic Crimes of Long Island

Call 631-727-2881 x100 to Register!

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From the Civil War to civil rights, revolutions to restorations, spies to suffragists, boatbuilders to bootleggers, and whalers to wineries, Long Island's history comes alive at the Suffolk County Historical Society!

The Suffolk County Historical Society, founded in 1886, collects and preserves the rich history of Suffolk County and beyond. We offer a history museum, art galleries, a research library and archives, and a multitude of exhibits, programs, and educational lectures and workshops year-round. Our unique collections reflect more than three centuries of Long Island history. Click here to learn about Member Benefits!


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