November 28, 1895 – The first organized automobile race in America

The first organized automobile race in the United States took place on this day in 1895. On July 10 earlier that year the Chicago Times-Herald announced it would host the race and offered a winning prize of $5,000, about $143,000 in 2017. Astonishingly, 83 vehicles signed up for the race, but when it came time for the event only six arrived at the starting line. Many of the automobiles scheduled to race were incomplete or damaged en route to the event. 

Map of the Chicago area race course

Of the vehicles on the snow-covered starting grid two were electric powered cars and four gas powered, including three Benz and one Duryea Motor Wagon. The Duryea, driven by Frank Duryea, finished the 54 mile course at the head of the pack. It took the vehicle seven hours and fifty-three minutes to complete the drive, at an average of 7 mph. Second place went to a Benz imported by H. Mueller & Co.

The Mueller Benz

Cover: Frank Duryea and his race winning vehicle. Note the snow on the street.