June 1, 1909 – The Ocean to Ocean race begins

To raise interest in the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition (AYPE) being held in Seattle, Washington, a transcontinental race from New York to Seattle was held. It began on this day in 1909, the same day the AYPE kicked off. Dubbed the Ocean to Ocean Endurance Race, sponsorship came in part from Henry Ford and Robert Guggenheim, who put up the trophy and prize money, which was $2,000 for first and $1,500 for second. 

The race had two segments. The first was an endurance race from New York City to St. Louis. During this portion of the event the drivers could only run their vehicles in daylight and they were to obey speed limits. The second half, from St. Louis to Seattle, was a speed race, as there were fewer laws regarding automobiles west of the Mississippi River. 

The 1909 Ocean to Ocean race winning Model T. It was later determined the driver, Bert Scott, changed the engine in the middle of the race, and was disqualified. By Cullen328 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

The first driver to make it to the West Coast was Bert Scott. He drove a stripped down Model T and arrived in Seattle at 12:55 pm on June 23rd, covering the 4,106 miles in 23 days. Henry Ford immediately advertised the results, helping boost sales of his new automobile. Then, controversy struck. More than five months later, revelations stating that Scott cheated by switching engines halfway through the race made headlines. His trophy was revoked and presented to the driver of a Shawmut, who had originally earned second place.