September 7, 1896 -“Get a Horse!”

The start of the race

When the first auto race to take place on an American race track began on this day in 1896 it started so slow that spectators were shouting, “Get a horse!” The race, sponsored by automobile manufacturers hoping to attract new buyers, took place at the Narragansett Trotting Park in Cranston, Rhode Island. It marked the first time a US auto race was held on a track, opposed to on public streets. Narragansett was a one mile-long dirt oval track at the state fairgrounds that was generally reserved for horse racing. But on this day seven cars took the field to participate in the five lap “Providence Horseless Carriage Race.” After the trot of a start more than 60,000 spectators became wooed as they watched as a Riker Electric complete the five lap race first, averaging about 20 miles per hour.

Along with the Riker there were five internal combustion vehicles and one other electric car. Second place went to the other electric car, built by Electric Carriage and Wagon Company, and third place was snagged by a Duryea Motor Wagon.

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