Luxury Cars of the Great Depression

 

Trips Into History explores the automotive industry during the years of the Great Depression and highlights a few of the marvelous cars produced and sold during this era of financial crises.

At first take you might wonder how some of these automakers stayed in business during this period. Indeed some auto manufacturers did suffer and some did go out of business. Some of these companies survived only because they took steps to adapt to a bad economy.

1933 dusenberg

1933 Dusenberg

While employment got worse automobile prices in general decreased. Against this backdrop there were those who could afford a luxury automobile and they were built and sold. Below are some of those luxury cars that did sell and sold in perhaps small numbers yet good numbers for the period and the price asked.

The 1933 Dusenberg Model J

It’s commonly said that each of the Duesenbergs were built differently. This is because while Duesenberg built the chassis and the engine, the body and styling was completed by some of Europe’s and America’s most noteworthy coach builders. With different coach builder involved it was easy to have noted differences. At the same time, having your car crafted by top end coach builders drove the prices quite high.

dusenberg model j

1933 Dusenberg grille

In 1933, prices ranged from about $13,000 to $25,000 depending on the extent of the hand crafted coach building. In fact, the degree and type of coach building completed on  Duesenberg models are why average prices during today’s auctions are as high as they usually are.

The prices charged for a new Duesenberg in 1933 were an enormous amount of money during the depths of the Great Depression. You would wonder why anyone would pay that price for an automobile during that era but they did. Some of the Duesenberg owners during the 1930′s included top Hollywood celebrities and European royalty. These were the types of buyers who surfaced with other luxurious and expensive automobiles.

1931 cadillac v 16The 1931 Cadillac V-16 Sport Phaeton

This was not an inexpensive automobile. During the Great Depression of which 1931 was certainly a part of, the Cadillac V-16 was the car of choice for the wealthy and celebrities.

Clearly, Cadillac’s V-16 was meant to make it competitive in the luxury high price end that automakers like Peerless, Pierce-Arrow and Packard held sway. The body for all 1931 Cadillacs were longer and lower than previous models. They also had a longer hood. The 1931′s also had a chrome plated screen that covered the radiator.

You could say it was the right kind of luxury car at just the wrong time. A total of 3,250 V-16′s were produced by Cadillac during the years 1930-1931. The price tag for a new Cadillac Sixteen could reach around $10,000. This was a high price vehicle in both the 1930′s and 1940′s. With the financial situation as it was in 1931, $10,000 or thereabouts was a huge amount of money to pay for an automobile.

1936 hudson eight

1936 Hudson Deluxe Eight

The 1936 Hudson Deluxe Eight

Whenever you look at vintage automobiles from the mid 1930′s there usually are some interesting stories to go along with them. The 1930′s was a time of change for the auto industry. The nation was in the throes of the Great Depression and automakers in general were struggling.

Much to their credit, Hudson automobiles were known for quality and for introducing a lot of firsts. The firsts included the steering wheel being placed on the left side of the vehicle with hand controls in the center. Dual brakes were yet another first as well as the first balanced crankshaft used in their straight six engine.

The 1936 Hudson’s new car price wasn’t anything like Dusenberg and Cadillac but was  around $1,000 to $1,300. You might be able to buy a Ford during this period for about $800.

1936 hudson

1936 Hudson

The Hudson Motor Car Company operated from 1909 to 1954. This was along run and under all manner of financial conditions. Hudson was one of the survivors of the Great Depression. They kept costs in line with sales. In 1954 the company merged with Nash-Kelvinator which was the precursor to the new American Motors.

After the 1957 model year the name Hudson was dropped. The Hudson brand had a successful forty-eight year run and again was always noted for quality.

auburn boat tail speedster

Auburn Boat Tail Speedster

The 1935 Auburn Boat Tail Speedster

The Auburn Automobile Company was affected quite deeply by the Great Depression. To make matters worse, E.L Cord, the former Chicago car salesman turned automaker president, was under fire for alleged mismanagement as well as questionable stock dealings. Auburn found itself with an acting president in 1935 by the name of Harold T. Ames.

The Auburn BoatTail Speedsters such as the one shown here offered both eye catching design as well as performance. The car looked like a race car and perhaps it was. Because of the company’s lackluster sales performance, the Speedster was intended to spark excitement among the performance car buying public and bring in much needed cash.

As a result of this Auburn produced a newly designed 1935 eight cylinder turbo-charged Auburn Speedster. Indeed, the car was an eye catcher.

1935 auburn speedster

1935 Auburn Boat Tail Speedster dash

With new engines becoming available every few years, there were three different generations of the Auburn Speedster built from 1928 to 1937. All Auburns, prior to 1935, were built with Lycoming twelve cylinder engines.

Two good books on the subject of automobiles of the 1930’s include American Cars of the 1930s by the Olyslager Organization and Cars of the Classic 30’s by the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide.

Below are links to some of our additional photo articles on our AutoMuseumOnline and Western Trips sites you’ll find interesting.

The 1931 Cadillac V-16 Sport Phaeton

The 1935 Auburn Boat Tail Speedster

A Unique Classic Car Museum in Endee New Mexico

The Studebaker National Museum

Prices of these Luxury Cars Today

As we’ve demonstrated, the price tags for the cars featured above were considered quite high during the 1930’s. Today, some of these automobiles, depending on degree of restoration and the current financial climate, can receive auction bids from collectors in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Even over one million dollars.

A 1933 Dusenberg SJ model can receive a bid perhaps over $2 million. This was a vehicle with over 300 horsepower in 1933. A fantastic amount of power under the hood in the 1930’s.

A 1931 restored Cadillac Sport Phaeton was sold at auction for over $200,000.

A 1935 Auburn Boat Tail Speedster fetched over $550,000 at auction.

Car auction activity shows that a restored 1936 Hudson Eight Coupe sold for about $25,000.

All of the above automobiles are rare finds. Finely restored is even rarer.

(Article and photos copyright AutoMuseumOnline)

 

Historic Steam Engine Exhibits

 

The steam engine could arguably be The most significant invention ever invented by man. Although we think of the steam engine coming into being on the old steamboats and railroad locomotives, history tells us that experimenting with steam goes back many centuries. Interest in steam didn’t begin when the steam from a tea kettle was first noticed. It’s interest goes back as far as the first century.

beam steam engine

Beam steam engine. Diagram from the public domain.

Did you know that the first steam engine manufactured is still operating as of this writing? This is a steam engine that today is over two centuries old. The steam engine was manufactured in 1812 by the Boulton and Watt company of Birmingham England.

It is considered the world’s oldest continuously operating beam steam engine and is still fed with hand stoked coal. You could refer to this engine as one of the many antique steam engines displayed around the world but in this case this engine is still doing the job it was built to do.

A beam steam engine uses a pivoted overhead beam to apply force from a vertical piston  to a vertical connecting rod. These engines were also used to drain water from mines.

The Boulton and Watt steam engine is both working and on display at the Crofton Pumping Station near the town of Great Bedwyn in county Wiltshire. The engine provides water for the Kennet and Avon Canal.

Visitors can view the beam steam engine at the Crofton Pumping Station. It is open everyday during the summer. For more detailed information on planning your visit see website www.croftonbeamengines.org

donkey steam engine

Donkey Steam Engine

The Donkey Steam Engine

There’s a reason why this steam engine is referred to as a “donkey engine” or a “steam donkey“. The steam donkey engine got it’s name from the work it did on old sailing ships.

The donkey engine operated as a winch. It was considered a relatively small secondary engine and could help load and unload cargo as well as help to lift the sail rigging. Something this small and transportable had many other uses.

The steam donkey engine was used widely in the logging industry. The typical logging steam donkey engine would have a boiler and winch and could be moved by skids built under it. The logging engine would have a cable attached which would be taken out and secured on a log. When the donkey engine operator would open the valve the steam power would drag the cable (and log) toward the engine. The donkey engine would lift, drag, and move logs from the stump to an accumulation point  Donkey engines were also used to load logs on rail cars that transported logs to distant mill sites.The steam power generated from the boiler could move massive logs.

donkey engine

Piston mechanism of the Donkey Engine

The Magic of Steam Power

Unlike an internal combustion engine requiring petroleum, a steam engine uses water and heat to produce power. Two easy things to acquire…water and fire. You can’t produce steam without water which is why water filling tanks would be placed at railroad stations and other sites for locomotives to refill their tanks.

With a steam engine, the high pressure steam produced forces a piston to move. When the piston moves a connecting rod then power is transferred. There is also a double acting steam engine which alternately allows steam to be put on both ends of a piston.

The Dangers of Early Steam Power

Harnessing steam as a power source came into being before a great deal was learned about it’s characteristics. Pressure from a boiler could cause disasters, and it did, many times. Calculating the strength of a boiler needed to withstand a certain amount of pressure was in it’s infancy. You could say it was learned by trial and error. The many steamboat disasters, especially from the 1840’s onward, are good examples.

sultana explosion

Drawing of the 1865 Sultana steamboat explosion near Memphis Tennessee, photo from the public domain

Among all the dangers a steamboat might face…snags, collisions with other vessels, running aground, boiler explosions were the most devastating. Thousands of lives were lost on the Mississippi and other rivers. Two of the most deadly were the Sultana explosion in 1865 just a few miles north of Memphis Tennessee and the Saluda explosion just a few yards from the dock in Lexington Missouri in 1852.

These were among steamboat disasters that prompted the federal government to finally get serious about rules and regulations for steamboats. Boilers in a wooden steamboat were typically below the decks. You can imagine the destruction and carnage caused by boiler explosions beneath wooden decks of often times overcrowded steamboats.

Some of the early steam boiler explosions on steamboats occurred because the boilers were not monitored properly. Sometimes they were left unmonitored for periods of time. Also, the pressure gauges were not used as they should have been and the gauges themselves were not up to the standards we have today. Uniform training of boiler operators and improvements in boiler construction were the main goals of the new federal laws. As years passed more was learned about boiler construction and the monitoring gauges were greatly improved.

Below are links to photo articles on our sites that you’ll find interesting.

The Baldwin Locomotive

The River Steamboats

The Donner Pass Steam Locomotive

Two excellent books about steam engines and steam power include The Most Powerful Idea in the World by author William Rosen and Water Trails West published by The Western Writers of America.

steam bus

A French Steam Autobus from 1875, public domain photo

Exploring the World of Historic Steam Engines

As mentioned above, the world’s  first steam engine is on display in England at the Crofton Pumping Station near the town of Great Bedwyn in county Wiltshire.

The Donkey Steam Engine shown in this article was displayed at the San Francisco National Maritime Historical Park on the west side of the Fisherman’s Wharf area. To get detailed information on current exhibits there see website /www.maritime.org/index.htm

Another great site to explore some of the more famous steam locomotives is the California State Railroad Museum in the Old Town section of Sacramento. Among other things you can view one of the first locomotives used by the Central Pacific Railroad, the western link of the first transcontinental route.

horizontal steam engine

A very small horizontal steam engine on display at the California State Railroad Museum

The New England Wireless and Steam Museum is located in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. This is strictly a volunteer museum and generally handles groups. They are only open a few days a week so if you want to visit this very interesting five building museum you’ll probably want to call in advance.

For more information see the website www.newsm.org  Among the may exhibits are the world’s oldest surviving wireless station and a collection of stationary steam engines.

(Articles and photos copyright Trips Into History. Steam Autobus and Saluda steamboat images from the public domain)

New Mexico Fort Ruins

 

The state of New Mexico is home to a great many historic sites. The rich history of New Mexico includes the Native Pueblo peoples of the southwest, it’s occupation by the Spaniards followed by the Mexicans and beginning in 1846 the occupation by the United States. This mixture of cultures is why New Mexico is such a fascinating state to visit.

fort selden new mexico

Fort Selden, NM ruins

Old Military Forts

When New Mexico was made a territory of the U.S., military outposts were established along the Rio Grande. The Rio Grande generally followed the main travel route between the capital of Santa Fe and Mexico. This was the El Camino Real, the trail carved out by the Spanish Conquistadors. It was the lifeline for supplies between Mexico City and Nuevo Mexico.

It was only natural for military forts to be established along this route. The forts and their garrisons would be key to the U.S. settlement of the territory including protection against Indian raids.

Two Historic Western Forts and Their Ruins

Traveling south to north from Las Cruces along Interstate-25 will take you past two old U.S. Army forts which today lay in ruins. While today the fort’s are in ruins we’re fortunate that the sites have been preserved so that they can be explored by future generations.

fort selden ruins

Fort Selden

Fort Selden

The ruins of Fort Selden, located about thirteen miles north of Las Cruces New Mexico and just west of Interstate 25 near the Rio Grande, is today a New Mexico State Monument. Visiting historic Fort Selden, viewing the ruins and exploring through the Visitors Center, will paint a good picture of what life was like for the soldiers stationed at this frontier fort.

Buffalo Soldiers comprising eight companies of the 125th Infantry were sent to New Mexico Territory. These troops were the first stationed at Fort Selden and would eventually serve at seven forts throughout the territory. At Fort Selden, these Buffalo Soldiers along with others would go on to construct the buildings including the army hospital. Buffalo Soldiers of the 9th Cavalry stationed at Fort Selden played a major role in chasing down the Apache leader Victorio who was leading many of the deadly raids in southern New Mexico.

Fort Selden, located just west of Interstate-25 is very easy to reach from the Interstate and makes an excellent addition to your New Mexico road trip planner. The state monument is open Wednesday through Monday. The site is closed on Tuesday. Take Exit 19 off of Interstate-25 about thirteen miles north of Las Cruces. The fort is located in the town of Radium Springs, NM.

fort craig new mexico

Fort Craig ruins

Fort Craig

Fort Craig is a National Historic Site which was taken over by the BLM in 1981. The site consists of a Visitors Center and the ruins of the once large and proud military fort. Fort Craig was named for U.S. Army Captain Louis S. Craig who was murdered by deserters in California in 1852.

Fort Craig was built in 1854 and was considered one of the largest and most important frontier forts in the West. Fort Craig played a big role in both the New Mexico Indian campaigns as well as in the American Civil War. Fort Craig was home to the Buffalo Soldiers of the 9th Cavalry and 38th and 125th Infantry.

battle of valverde map

Battle of Valverde Map

Fort Craig lies adjacent to the site of what many believe was the largest Civil War battle in the southwest. This was the Battle of Valverde fought on February 21, 1862. The batttle lasted the entire day. While the Confederates (mostly Texans) prevailed in this battle, and were thus able to thrust further north to Albuquerque and Santa Fe, they were later defeated at the Battle of Glorieta Pass just to the east of Santa Fe. The site of the Battle of Valverde is just to the northeast of Fort Craig on private ranch land. The site is visible from the fort.

Links below are to two additional Trips Into History photo articles you’ll enjoy.

Buffalo Soldiers of West Texas

Santa Fe Trail Wagon Ruts at Fort Union

Barrio de Analco and America’s Oldest House

Could Be The Best Hiking Trail in Sedona Arizona

Visit Fort Craig New Mexico

Fort Craig is located just to the east of Interstate 25 about 44 miles south of Socorro New Mexico and on the west side of the Rio Grande.

From the north, take I-25 to the San Marcial exit, then east over the Interstate, and south on old Highway 1 (about 11 miles). Then follow the signs to Fort Craig. (If traveling on I-25 from the south, take exit 115.) The fort is to the east of NM 1, which parallels the freeway thru some lovely scenery and towns, and will also take you to the entrance of Bosque Apache Wildlife Area and the turnoff to the El Camino Real Museum.

(Article and photos copyright 2013 Trips Into History)

 

 

 

Historic Texas Hotel / Luxury and Celebrities

 

Not far south of Dallas Texas, in the town of Waxahachie, the old Rogers Hotel was at one time the place to see the celebrities. It was a gem of a hotel in a small town south of Dallas with a very colorful past. Today the Rogers Hotel is alive and well and is a center for entertainment and shopping. The Rogers Hotel now offers posh shopping, dining and office space and this historic hotel also offers a limited number of rooms for guests.

rogers hotel waxahachie

The Rogers Hotel, Waxahachie Texas

A Luxury Hotel

The Rogers Hotel, built in 1912, served as the residence for professional baseball players as well as such famous celebrities as Frank Sinatra.

It was also said that Bonnie and Clyde were also seen at the Rogers Hotel. This old hotel in Waxahachie TX was also used for scenes in the 1983 movie, Places in the Heart. Music videos have also been shot on the hotel premises.

The Rogers Hotel, which sits across the street from the county courthouse at College Street and Main, was named in honor of Emory W Rogers, the founder of Waxahachie Texas. Rogers originally built his log cabin on this very site in 1846. In October of 1849, Rogers received a grant of 640 acres along the north fork of the Waxahachie Creek to establish the seat of the newly created Ellis County.

ellis county texas courthouse

Courthouse on the Waxahachie Square

The first Rogers Hotel was built on the site in 1856 but was later destroyed by fire.

Among the new 1912 hotel’s amenities included a rooftop garden and a basement natatorium. The basement also featured a barber shop and billiards room.

During some of the Texas hot summer nights cots were placed for guests on the roof top. This was luxury during the early 1900’s.

 

A Home for Major League Baseball

Major league baseball teams often resided at the hotel during spring training. These included the Detroit Tigers during 1916-1917, the Cincinnati Reds in 1919 and the Chicago White Sox in 1921. This was during the period before many teams conducted spring their training in various Florida towns and cities. This was the hotel that baseball fans could run into Ty Cobb and other ballplayers.

Like many old historic hotels, the Rogers Hotel was closed for a long time. Decades passed before the hotel came to life again. If you’re wondering if the storied hotel is haunted, the answer from many people is yes.

baseball player ty cobb

Ty Cobb, left, and Joe Jackson

Rogers Hotel Hauntings

The haunted hotel story that has gone around centers around the new owner searching for his maintenance man. After finally locating the man in his locked room, the maintenance man refused to come out.

Apparently the maintenance man received a knock on his door the previous night. This in itself was somewhat odd since the hotel was being renovated. Nobody else was expected to be on the premises during the night hours. When he opened the door a man was standing there in attire of another era. The man asked the maintenance man to follow him into the basement where the natatorium was. The mysterious man mentioned that bad things happened there and then simply vanished in front of his eyes. The maintenance man bolted back up to his room and locked the door behind him. The next day he quit his job and fled never to work at the Rogers Hotel again.

Below are links to several additional Trips Into History photo articles you’ll find interesting.

Ghosts in Hotels

Historic Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas NM

On our Western Trips site you’ll enjoy the article about the historic Palace Hotel in Silver City New Mexico.

Silver City’s Palace Hotel

waxahachie tx rogers hotel

Today’s Rogers Hotel Barber Shop

Over the next several months the owner heard of stories from some of his cleaning help. Stories of strange things happening in front of their eyes. Things like footsteps and voices.

One of these employees also decided to quite her job. Strange happenings were also reported by Rogers Hotel guests.

One female hotel guest reported that she saw a man dressed in cowboy attire standing at the foot of her bed.

A hotel night clerk reported the elevator going up to the fourth floor (many of the strange occurrences happened on this floor) and return to the lobby with nobody inside. This was particularly strange since no guests were checked in on the fourth floor. There are additional stories like this as well.

texas historical museums

Ellis County Museum on the Waxahachie Town Square

Visiting Waxahachie Texas

Waxahachie TX is located about 30 miles south of Dallas along Interstate-35.

It is also about 65 miles north of Waco TX. For more information about the Rogers Hotel in Waxahachie Tx see website http://www.waxahachiedowntown.com/rogers/http://www.waxahachiedowntown.com/rogers/

Waxahachie is the county seat of Ellis County Texas which was formed in 1849 from land from Navarro and Robertson Counties. The county is named in honor of Richard Ellis who was president of the 1836 convention that produced the Texas Declaration of Independence. The Ellis County Courthouse shown in this article was built in 1895. The courthouse was built a bit differently than many of the other Texas courthouses. In has more of an open plan with an open space in the center of the building. The large second floor courtroom was built to one side. This was different than most of the courthouses built with intersecting halls. The architectural plans for the building were created by J. Riely Gordon.

It’s said that the Ellis County Courthouse is among the most visited of all the historic Texas courthouses.

(Article and photos copyright 2013 Trips Into History. Ty Cobb / Joe Jackson photo from the public domain)

Roswell 2013 UFO Festival

 

Roswell New Mexico, a town that grew from only two adobe buildings in 1869, once again hosted a well attended UFO Festival July 5-7, 2013. The three day festival featured guest speakers, authors, live entertainment, a costume contest, a pet costume contest, parade, and many family friendly activities.

roswell new mexico ufo festival

Roswell New Mexico

If you have not yet attended one of these events you may want to consider doing so next July. The Roswell UFO Festivalis an annual event which brings together authors, scientists and others who have investigated the 1947 events there. It was a long time ago that reports first surfaced that a UFO and it’s occupants had crashed about forty miles northwest of town. The crash site today is on ranch land. While decades have passed, the interest in the subject has not faded. If anything it has grown.

Discussing the Facts of Roswell

A key part of the festival are the lectures and panel discussions comprised of people who have meticulously investigated the crash. This is not a wild conspiracy discussion but rather a detailed presentation of the evidence collected through decades of research. It’s essentially a discussion and presentation of the facts.

2013 roswell festival

Jesse Marcel Jr. and daughter at Roswell 2013 event

Among the 2013 research participants were nuclear physicist Stanton Friedman who it can be said was the man who began serious inquiry into the Roswell crash during the 1970’s. Many may have heard of Stanton Friedman through his years of discussion as a guest on the radio program Coast to Coast. In fact, it was Friedman’s analysis of what occurred outside Roswell in 1947 that encouraged others to join the unofficial investigation.

Another key attendee and lecturer at the 2013 Roswell UFO Festival was Donald R. Schmitt. Scmitt along with Kevin D. Randal are the authors of several books regarding the Roswell UFO crash. These include The Roswell Files and UFO Crash at Roswell. Donald R. Schmitt is the former co-director of the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies, where he served as Director of Special Investigations for ten years. Prior to that, he was a special investigator for the late Dr. J. Allen Hynek for the International UFO Reporter.

roswell ufo

Roswell UFO Museum and Research Center

Another very interesting guest at the 2013 event was Jesse Marcel Jr. Marcel is the son of the first military officer present at the Roswell crash site. Marcel Jr., a physician,  wrote the book The Roswell Legacy. Jesse Marcel Jr. was eleven years old when his father Major Jesse Marcel Sr., after visiting the crash site with Chaves County sheriff George Wilcox and rancher William Brazel,  brought small debris from the crash site home in a box.

Jesse Marcel Jr. chronicles the sequence of events and describes the type of material he viewed first hand. He also strives to clear up some of the misconceptions about the crash and of his father’s role in the series of events that unfolded afterward including the supposed display of crash debris at the Army Airfield in Fort Worth Texas. Marcel Sr. later in life denied that the material displayed in the official photograph with General Remy in Ft. Worth was material retrieved from the crash site. General Remy’s command at the time included the Roswell Army Airfield at which Major Jesse Marcel Sr. was stationed.. That statement alone says quite a lot and created many more questions than answers.

ufo roswell new mexico

Panel discussion at Roswell 2013. Stanton Friedman is at center. Donald R. Schmitt is second from right

Visiting Roswell New Mexico

The Roswell UFO Festival is an annual event. The International UFO Museum and Research Center is open year round. The museum has a treasure trove of UFO information and photos taken from around the world. It also has documents and written testimony given by various citizens of Roswell at the time of the incident. Whether you are a skeptic or believer in UFO’s you will enjoy a visit to this quite unique museum. There is quite a bit of tangible information presented at the museum and it’s essentially up to the visitor to decide for him or her self whether the available evidence supports the crash theory. One of the most interesting exhibits at the Roswell Museum is the section detailing the timeline of events in 1947 and the testimony of solid citizens of the community.

Below is a link to another Trips Into History article you’ll enjoy.

The First American Aviator

On our Western Trips site you’ll enjoy our tour of the Roswell UFO Museum.

roswell ufo crash site

roswell crash site model exhibit

Roswell New Mexico is located about 190 miles southeast of Albuquerque and about 200 miles northeast of El Paso Texas. An interesting fact is that Roswell has been the home to New Mexico Military Institute since 1891.The institute serves as a four year high school and two year junior college. Some of it’s most noteworthy graduates include Conrad Hilton, Roger Staubach, and news reporter Sam Donaldson.

Visitors to the area will find many excellent hotels and restaurants in Roswell. In addition to the annual festival and the International UFO Museum and Research Center, the Carlsbad Caverns National Park is located about 75 miles  south of Roswell.

(Article and photos copyright Trips Into History)