In May 2014 we had a thread in which Model T #1 was discussed:
Several photos were posted, and different theories about what was, and what happened to, T number 1. At the time, the photo below was for the most part, thought to be "number 1."
At the time, I found another view of the same car:
Unfortunately, there was no story with the photograph. Now, we may have "the rest of the story."
The photograph below appeared on October 31, 1908 in "Brooklyn Life," a news magazine.
The owner is identified as Mr. Burton T. Bishop. In the earlier thread, the consensus was that this car was shipped to England, and Model T number 1 was lost to the ages, somewhere in England.
Only problem is, Mr. Burton T. Bishop is one of the owners of Bishop and McCormick, a successful Ford dealer in Brooklyn:
While this is obviously a very early Model T, I think it's unlikely it was placed on a boat and sent to England when it's in the possession of a New York area dealer. With that said, it may be Model T number 1. If it is, i would guess it was probably sold to someone in the New York area.
Who says you can't learn anything from newspapers, and how about that Model K ?
"#1 Model T. Oct 15 1908" written on the photo can have a number of interpretations.
For example, it may just mean that it was the first Model T Ford delivered to Bishop & McCormick, not Model T serial number 1.
You could go to the ledgers and compile a list of the 1909 Model Ts delivered to Bishop & McCormick to show that serial number 1 was not delivered to Bishop & McCormick.
"The other occupant of the car is Mr. John McCormick."
I think that I have several of his records. And to quote also the great Al Jolson, "and he ain't bad!"
Neat stuff! Thanks Rob.
Drive carefully, and enjoy, W2
The problem with the ledger is we don't have all the numbers (if I'm not mistaken, and I often am). I agree, the note on the photo may mean #1 to this dealer, or #1 through the New York Branch. It may still mean T #1, but if it is, I don't think that car left the U.S.. One thing about it, it is one of the first Model T to reach a dealer.
What is the finish on the hood former? On all three photos of the T it stands out.
I suspect aluminum. The Model K used an alum hood former and it looks similar when shined.
Interesting. I wonder how long that went on?
The Model T Henry Ford went on a "hunting trip" with just prior to October 1, 1908, and I believe suspected as being number 1, or a prototype, appears to have the same wide, shiney hood former:
As did the Model T Henry Ford claimed was Number One, but has been discredited as such (it had been converted to three pedals, then at some point put back to a two pedal, as I understand it):
A photo of the mud caked "prototype" car that Henry Ford, Bert Scott and C.J. Smith took on a hunting trip to Northern Wisconsin in September 1908 shows the hood former is probably made of brass or brass plated.
That's the photo I was referring to. I was typing at the same time you were.
A number of years back at Hershey Model t #3 showed up. Fresh restoration still smelled of paint and thinners.
The so called experts crawled all over the car and poo pooed it from front to rear. The one thing I remember specifically was the hand made linkage between the levers and the transmission.
Now I'm no where near anything to be considered a model t t expert, so I'm not attempting to say yea or nay, just stating some facts.
The experts of which there were several agreed to disagree about the various right and wrong things regarding this car. Once they figured out who restored and presented # 3, they sorta chortled and said "no wonder" another Hess car.
I'm not sure the hood former looks similar to the brass lamp next to it? Sure wish we had color pics...
Ref Trent’s article “Model T Number One” from the Nov – Dec 2004 “Vintage Ford” he states that the engineering records dealing with the hood former are incomplete and the ones that are available do not mention brass plating. But he believes that the photo clearly shows a polished brass plated hood former for car Number One as well as the muddy car that went on Henry Ford’s trip.
Trent shares multiple reasons why the muddy car from the trip could not be car #1 but is a car (prototype) assembled prior to number 1.
It is getting late, so I could have easily missed where in the other postings at: http://www.mtfca.com/discus/messages/411944/444346.html?1399861037 you mentioned that there was a consensus that Model T # 1 was shipped to England. I did find where one poster said several times that Number One went to London. But it was only the one poster who shared he believed car #1 was shipped to London (which would be in England) unless I missed one of the other posters (that could happen). But I searched for Europe, England, and London and only found the one poster that mentioned it several times.
Trent Boggess in his Nov-Dec 2004 “Model T Number One” referenced the statement made in Phillip Van Doren Stern’s book “Tin Lizzie” that the first eight Model Ts were shipped to Europe. But Trent points out that Stern did not offer any documentation to support his claim. That claim was made at the bottom of page 56 and continued on page 58. And in the book Sterns states:
“The two European representatives, R. M. Lockwood and H. B. White, must have been unusually persuasive while they were at the branch managers’ meeting, for the company’s record shows that only eight Model T’s were made in October, 1908, and that they were all shipped to Europe to be shown at the Olympia Exhibition in England on November 13 and at the Paris Salon on November 28.”
That may or may not be a lead to help find additional information. While Sterns did not mention what source he used he did include the dates of Sep 14 – 16 1908 or so for the dates of the “sales meeting” and referred to the 15 men who attended as branch managers. (ref page 54 Stern’s “Tin Lizzie). We know that Sterns was incorrect on the photo published on page 57 and that was labeled “Worlds first public sowing of the Model T Ford at the Olympia Exhibition, opening in London on Nov 13, 1908.” But the research that corrected that, also corrected the comments on the actual picture at the Benson Ford archives that could easily have led anyone else to believe the photo was the 1908 for the 1909 model year rather than Nov 1909 for the 1910 model year that it really was. For additional details on that photo please see: http://modelt.org/discus/messages/2/1884.html But the next time you are looking at the Benson Ford Archives please check to see if there are any minutes from a meeting around that time frame.
Trent in his article basically shares we do not know what became of Model T Number One.
Additionally he states that the engine was clearly replaced, but unlike the forum posting where the number 31 was mentioned as the replacement engine, Trent never mentions number 31 as a possible engine number. Instead he mentions that in person you can make out where the number 57 had been erased and the number 2090 was written above where the motor number would go. And that car number 2090 is also listed in the shipping ledgers and that causes another big question mark on what happened.
I will try to drop Trent a note and request permission to post his excellent article.
In addition to the prestolight tank on the running board, one additional item that also supports that the car in the NY photograph is car #1 is that it has a “dragon horn.” The shipping document for car #1 says dragon horn. And when I first looked at the horn I thought – that’s a regular horn. But from the 1907 Ford Accessory catalog we have the photo below. Note that it calls it a tubular horn but also a “genuine French Dragon Horn.” The one shown below is for the right hand drive cars sold in 1907.
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Thank you Hap. One thing is certain, if only eight Model T were produced/distributed in Oct 08, the car in NY is one of the first eight (so not all shipped to England, unless after this photo was taken) . It may also mean the #1 written on the photo is more apt to be accurate.
Thank you again, much to learn.
Rob, as far as number 1 goes, I don't believe that the car Henry and company took on there hunting trip is the first car sold. It had quite a problem with oil consumption and was clearly a "used" car after there trip. Stern does say that the first 8 cars were shipped to Europe for an auto show, but as Hap stated no reference was offered. Ford times does show pictures of early 2 pedal 1909 cars at the auto show, but there is no way to prove that they are the first 8 cars produced. I always found that claim hard to believe, as every Ford dealer in October 1908 wanted a Ford T for there own showroom.
The car that Don Hess brought to Hershey was stamped with the number 2. Prevailing opinion seems to be that it is not actually number 2.
The early hood former is interesting, and looks like the car pictured has a brass plated hood former. I don't believe there is any documentation stating these hood formers were brass plated and I don't believe there any original examples. Car #1 is a great topic, wish there was more info.
I'm not home right now so I don't have his book available, but something in this thread reminds me of the Model T Ford Restoration Book Les Henry wrote many years ago. Didn't Leslie Henry have something to do with restoration/preservation of that first one?
One place I would look into, were I really on the trail of "number 1" would be to re-examine the car Henry Ford claimed was "it." At that point he is the wealthiest man the world has ever known. It's only 18 years since #1 was sold, so records and live witnesses are still around. If he wanted to find and own #1, I would think he could do so. Who knows? I understand there are a number of "incorrect" things about the car, but I would still give it a thorough, open minded look.
Lastly, I don't know that a brass plated hood former would hold up well. We do know an aluminum one will, it's been used by Ford on the K for three years. Just my opinions, I'll try to go back to sleep now.
Yes it was titled " Curator's Choice "
Regards, John Page , Australia.
I've been mulling this over . Why would Henry and Edsel Ford fabricate a story that they located T number 1 after a difficult search, in Ohio? Wouldn't an outright lie invite media or someone to come forward and refute the claim? Wouldn't it have been "cleaner" to simply say FMC had the car all along, instead making up a story?
We often assume we are (pick the adjective) smarter, wiser, of higher character (questionable) than those who have gone before, when we often learn the opposite is sometimes the case. Is it possible that the car at THF is #1, at least the remains of #1 as it was probably improved while in service?
And, I noticed, it does appear to have the brass or aluminum hood former. Would Ford have added that "touch" to make it look authentic? If there's no written change record, how would Ford have remembered to change it back? Or could the hood former be a clue that this T is related to one of the very first?
I wonder why the 'supposedly' no.1 Model T in the first 3 photographs was always taken by the same monument but at different angles?
Look closely and you can see it. Where is the eastern parkway as noted in one of the captions?
They must have been proud of that T since they took 3 photographs of it. Maybe it was no. 1.
But that's a maybe.
I think it's the same car, with several shots taken. The "Brooklyn Life" photo identifies the photographer, and it's the same person who shot the Model K. The driver in the first photo with the caption "#1 Model T" has a bow tie, as does the driver in the "Brooklyn Life" magazine pic.
My guess is the third person (different positions and maybe one different person, no bow tie) might be the other Bishop in "Bishop, McCormick and Bishop." Below is another photo presumably by the same photographer that appeared in "Brooklyn Life" of C. M. Bishop, and of course, a Mode K Roadster:
I find it amusing that most of us here seem to worship Henry and his ideals, yet question his word about the car that made him.
Ed, yes, that often surprises me too.
Back to the hood former. Hadn't thought of it before, but this was our touring car, with aluminum hood former, converted to black and white:
It's difficult with black and white to tell a difference between our alum hood former and the brass (right pic below). The Model T hood former is on the left:
Les Henry's T in the book was a 09.
Model at Number 1 is a fascinating car. Trying to uncover its story is equally fascinating.
As a historical note, I found the picture of Model T #1 on June 14, 2003. I was spending a few days helping out at the Benson Ford Research Center, as those of you who know me, is another of my passions. I had been asked to review some files by the Archivist and write them a report so they could decide how to process it. These reports cover three topics; 1. what is it, 2. what is its significance, & 3. What do we do with it. It has been gratifying to me that the Research Center has frequently followed my recommendations.
I digress. In this box of files I happened across the picture of Model T #1. I examined the photo extensively, looking for features that would be more or less unique to that car, and if you have read the article you know that I picked up on the frame front corner brackets, and they were of the type used only on the beginning of the Model T production run, and that probably no more than 12 cars had them before the design was changed.
I also examined the picture with the actual shipping invoice for #1 in my hand. This car matches the original shipping invoice completely from a right front perspective.
The information on the back of the photo is: Description: Copy negative. Frank Dunnell, Ford racer and salesman, at wheel of one of first Model T's, possibly NO. 1, October 15, 1908. Other man unknown.
Also on the back are the typed notes: B 10403 and Aug.'55.
Here is the interpretation of that note is, the image in the Henry Ford is a copy negative. That is, it was taken from the original photo graph, but it is not the original photo graph itself. This is a common practice in archival work. You are given a photograph to examine and copy, but you cannot retain the original, or at least I haven't found the original at the Benson Ford Research Center. Frank Dunnell was an employee of the New York City branch of the Ford Motor Company. He has been photographed before for pictures that later appeared in the Ford Times. The date is quite plausible. #1's shipping invoice states that it was sent to NY on October 1, 1908. The location of the photograph is also known. It was taken in front of the statue of George Washington near the entrance of Union Square park in New York City. In my article on Model T #1 I mistakenly placed it at NY's Central Park. It is still there today. B 10403 is the negative number of the copy of the picture, and this type of negative is referred to as a "B Series Negative".
I am thankful to Rob for turning up the second and third photos of #1. They are of the same car at the same place at the same date as the original picture of #1. Note that the statue of George Washington appears in all three photos. The three photos appear to be a set, or a part of a set of photos taken of the first Model T. Photo number two is of the car from the left from perspective, and gives a view of the left side of the car. Note that the equipment on the car in this view matches the shipping invoice of Model T #1. Following one of the basic principles of all scholarly research (If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it's a duck), I am more convinced that this is indeed Model T #1.
As Kim Dobbins mentioned, the bright polished hood former was an interesting find. Like the rest of you, I had examined the "Muddy Car", also sometimes referred to as Model T # 0, and noted the polished hood former. Keep in mind that all of these photos were taken using monochromatic black and white film. The properties of this type of film are that it cannot distinguish between colors very well. In particular, reds show up as black in Monochromatic film. This, by the way, explains why period photographs of Model Ns never show the pin striping. The pinstripe color was probably a shade of red. The bodies and chassis of many early Model Ns were painted maroon. Red pinstripes disappear into a another shade of red when using Monochromatic film. Similarly, any pinstripes that were on Model T #1 would not be visible because of the monochromatic film.
I love Philip Van Doren Stern's book, but as a scholar it drives me nuts. He didn't document where he obtained his information. The manuscript is in the Benson Ford Research Center, and I have examined it as well, but like the book, the manuscript tells us nothing about the sources of his information. I do not know where he got the information that 8 Model T's where shipped to England in October, 1908, but this point in the manuscript shows that he had originally written 4 Model T's, then this was crossed out and the number 6 was handwritten above it, then he crossed that out and wrote 8. Go figure. In Stern's defense, he had access to source that we do not have today. In 1955 many of the people who worked for Ford Motor Company in its early years were still alive and willing to tell him stories. These may or may not be true. I once had the opportunity to meet Les Henry (I bought a new copy of his Model T Restoration Manual for him to autograph for me). One of the things that had puzzled me was in his book he states that the color black was chosen because it was the fastest drying paint. It turns out that it drys just as fast as other colors, but I wanted to know where he got that information. When I asked Mr. Henry that question he thought for a moment then said Billy Allan. Who knows? Maybe Billy Klann said some thing like that to Mr. Henry, we will never know. Meanwhile, I am sticking to the story I wrote in the Vintage Ford.
If you have read your way through this overly long post, you should start to see why scholars insist on documentation of their articles. It is not just so someone can go back and check on whether they are telling the truth or not, it is so future researchers have a starting point to start looking for additional information on their interest from.
When Jay, Barbara and I were working together to publish my first VF article, Henry Ford, Edward Huff, and the Flywheel Magneto, they asked the question whether we should or should not publish the end notes. Finally, I argued that the Vintage Ford was much more than a slick paper publication, it was a magazine that people held on to, and kept reading time and again, year after year. At some point someone would want to know where I got my information from, and want to follow up with more research. Jay and Barbara agreed with that argument so they devoted 2 precious pages of the VF to the end notes of that article.
It's always interesting to see many of the same Ford people surface (such as Frank Dunnell) over the years. When I've read about Dunnell he was racing Ns and Ks at different events.
Thank you for your research and for sharing the information,
This may sound like a stupid question but what is the number of the car in the Henry Ford and what was lost in the fire. I was there with my son in 2009 and it is not the same place my parents took me too back in the 60s. When I asked why the staff member told me there had bin a fire and they lost a lot of cars. Maybe Henry kept No 1 for himself has anyone checked his burial site. Just a thought If Henry said me found it he would be the one person how would know Colin
Having been infected with this hobby for over 3/4 of my 55 years I remembered something in one of the first books I owned on Model T's, MODEL T FORD RESTORATION HANDBOOK printed by Clymer Publications, first printing 1965, my copy is 11th 1978. What I thought I remembered is the museum finding number 1 and having a before and after picture in this book. I reread it today to refresh my memory on what it said thinking that why not look at this picture from 1953 and see if the frame brackets are in the photo's. The before picture is of a 1909, one owned by the museum but not no. 1, but a red one. The picture of the black 1909 is said in this book to represent the first Model T not any where does it say it's Model T no. 1. Of note: the 1927 touring car said on the next page to be the 15,000,000th MTF is plain, not wearing the 15th mil paint?
My Father who was born and raised in Detroit would tell me that when in high school during WWll he would go most Sundays to the museum and look around at everything. At MTFCA Destination Dearborn ll in 1974 he would say things like I remember this/that, that used to be over there...... He got to know a few of the people who worked there and heard stories......how in the basement there were still pre T's in factory crates, stacked where you couldn't get to them for years. This was the first time he had been back to the museum since I was born in 1960
As a side note, at that time many if not all of the exhibits were displayed in an open manor, not roped off like the norm is today. One story he told me was that he once sat in Admiral Birds Tri-Motor, even put his initials inside some where. I was somewhat horrified and asked how he could get in. This wile standing in the museum looking at the plane. He said that at that time no ropes and so you could walk right up to it open the door and go in. This happened the day my dad was born, I never did ask him if that had anything to do with his interest.
No it is not a stupid question. However, what you were told is not entirely correct.
The fire that took place in the early seventies, as I understand it, was on one of the upper floors of the museum, where the some of the production records and photographic negatives were kept. Almost all of the production records for the Model T were destroyed in this fire. The BFRC has the inventories of the accessions that contained the Model T production records, so I am aware of what was lost.
However, if any of the cars were lost in this fire, I am unaware of it. I do not believe any cars were lost in the fire.
Most of the cars you remember from the 1960's are still in the collections of the Henry Ford, but are stored in an off site location. I have been fortunate to have visited the off site location and seen many cars there that I remember. All of the rest of the letter series cars are there, and many Model Ts are there as well.
But not all of the cars have stayed in the collections. In the early 1980's a review and appraisal of the collections was done. Some cars were deemed surplus to the collection, and were sold at auction in 1984. The proceeds from the cars sold were re-invested in cars new to the collection. One of the cars sold was the early Model N that used to be on the floor, but it was replaced with the splendid 1907 original Model N that is on the floor today.
The two lever Model T which you recall seeing was on the second floor above the entrance that looks like Independence Hall from the front. This was, at the time, referred to as the Henry Ford Personal History room, and the three cars that were there were the 1896 Quadricycle, the early two Lever Model T, and the Fifteen Millionth Model T. The photos and documents in the curator's files on the two-lever car indicate that it was not a very good car. The two lever two pedal control system was to a degree fabricated, and did not look like an original. It certainly was not #1. This car was also sold at the auctions.
The Red Model T Two Lever Two Pedal car that is on the floor today is serial number 839. (I know, the two lever cars supposedly ended at #750, but when the Red car was recovered in the late 1950's, it clearly was an original two level. Go figure.). It is a pretty good restoration and still runs. It was last run in 2008 for the Model T Centennial.
To the best of my knowledge Mr. Ford was looking to find one of the single digit serial number Model Ts, but never found one. When I was reorganizing the Henry Ford Office Paper during my first sabbatical in 1997, I found several instances between 1921 and 1923 in which some one wrote to Mr. Ford's office offering a very low serial number Model T. Mr. Ford invariably dispatched a team to check out these cars, but equally invariably the report would come back that it was not what the writer claimed it to be. Knowing what I do now about the frailties of 2-lever cars, I doubt Model T #1 survived very long.
As for the car claimed to be #2, I saw the car several times during its restoration. Out of respect for Don Hess I will keep my opinions to myself.
I once heard the story of the Model T's in shipping crates under the main floor of the Museum in the early 1970's. Alas, further research has proven the story to be untrue.
I always heard that Mr. Thomas Edison received number one from Mr. Ford as a gift.
Thanks so much for your investigations, Prof. Of All Things Model T
Yes, found too that the Museum has over the years disposed of vehicles donated or acquired, when searching for one such vehicle, discovered in one of the archives at the Benson Ford, that a group of antique autos in the museum collections were sent to scrap.
Below is a partial listing, comprised of two pages dated 1945, where these cars were sent to scrap.
and this followup letter from the curator in the 1970's that commented on Henry Ford's decision during the war years as a bit harsh I think
...but that is how it goes, at least some of the past famous vehicles still exist, and its fun to be in a hobby that is continuing to see these important cars from the past are respected and conserved. Thanks again for your part in keeping the Model T history alive and well.
Mr. Edison received a Model A which had a motor with the serial number 1. The motor was held back until the post-AR Model As came into production.
And when visited the Nat'l Model A Museum at Hickory Corners MI (Gilmore's) they have what is claimed the Model A Engine #1 that Henry stamped.
Jay Klehfoth kindly sent me a PDF version of Trent's "Model T Number One" article from the Nov-Dec 2004 "Vintage Ford" magazine. It is a little under 5 mgs so it is too large for me to post on the forum. But if you would like a free copy of the PDF, please send me an e-mail with something in the subject such as "Send Trent's Model T Number One article" or something similar. If you click on my name it brings up my profile and my e-mail address is the third line down. The club allows us to share those articles to help promote our hobby and our club. They are for non-commercial use. The PDF allows you to see additional details and to do word searches etc. I think it will answer many of the questions some folks have been asking. A BIG THANK YOU to Trent for writing the article and to Jay for sending it to me so we could make it available to others who may not have that issue of the “Vintage Ford” readily available.
Below is a low resolution JPG copy. Note one minor correction that Trent mentioned above, the location of the George Washington statue and photographs of the Model T Number One is near the entrance of Union Square park in New York City and NOT NY's Central Park as originally published. I don’t have easy access to a PDF full program so I cannot make that correction to what I am posting.
I hold down the control key and roll my mouse button to zoom in and fill up the screen -- it makes the print a little easier for me to read.
Used by permission.
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The strip that retains the dash shield for #904 is stamped from brass. It has no sign of any black paint. It makes sense that the hood former could also have been stamped from brass on other early T's. Unfortunately the original dash shield for 904 does not survive. I intend to make a reproduction of that part in .032" brass to match the retainer.