An interesting series of cars owned by a wealthy Minneapolis man, ending with a Ford twist:
Edmund J. Phelps was a successful and wealthy businessman by the turn of the last century. In the 1908 publication "A Half Century of Minneapolis" he garnered a a half page biography, along with his photograph:
In 1904, while touring Europe in his Knox automobile. He had a full page description of his trip published. The beginning and ending excerpts of his European travels:
In June, 1905, E. J. Phelps is listed as the owner of a Queen automobile that wins the $1,000 or less class in the annual Minneapolis hill climb:
Meanwhile, Mr. Phelps is involved with many Minneapolis area organizations and clubs. The Phelps also had a summer home on Lake Minnetonka, and Mr. Phelps was a past "Commodore" of the yacht club:
The Minnetonka Yacht Club is still going: http://www.minnetonkayachtclub.org/Overview.aspx
They race mostly scows. When I was in high school, I crewed for races OT of the Wayzeta Yacht Club. We raced mostly cabin class boats. It was fun.
The clipping have many famous Minnesota names. Everybody's heard of Pilsbury Flour. W. H. Dunwoody founded an industrial arts college that is still thriving and turning out skilled workers.
Savage is mail order entrepreneur Marion W. Savage who founded International Stock Food.
He is also known as the owner of world record holding pacer, Dan Patch.
Savage was heavily involved in the 1909 Glidden Tour.
I wonder how many know the difference in a trotter and a pacer?? Bud.
The Phelps family appear to have been involved in the elite business and social circles:
In the spring of 1905 the Phelps buy a 40 hp Thomas Flyer:
Among his many endeavors, Phelps was a long serving and very influential Minneapolis Park Board commissioner. He was also involved early on in the Minnesota Automobile Association.
I drive by Phelps Park on a regular basis when I travel north on Park Avenue. There's also a Phelp's fountain (the turtle fountain) near Lake Harriet.
There's also a park named after the George Brackett mentioned in one of your clippings. He too served as a park board commissioner. He had a varied and interesting life - too much to describe here.
Erik, thank you for the background. There were quite a few news accounts mentioning E. J. Phelps, mostly involving business dealings and a variety of social and civic groups.
The Phelps close their summer home, and plan to winter in California, arranging to have their Thomas taken by train to CA:
While in CA, the Phelps take the Thomas from Los Angeles to San Francisco:
April 1, 1906, Mr. Phelps has returned to Minneapolis following a trip to Cuba:
A new season, time for a new car. I bet no one is able to guess what E. J. Phelps chooses for his next automobile.......
I KNOW...I KNOW... A Pierce Arrow because they were the best car ever made
If he has any common sense, it will be a "Perfectly Simple, Simply Perfect" car.
All good guesses, guys.
However, by late April, Northwest Auto of Minneapolis has received their first Model K:
A few weeks later, a Ford six cylinder (Model K) finishes 3rd in it's class at the annual Minneapolis Hill Climb. The Model K is driven by W. E. Wheeler and owned by our own Mr. Phelps.
The Model K misses 1st and 2nd by less than two seconds, beating two Franklins, Olds, Rambler, Frayer-Miller, National and Marmon. This occurs about a month after the first reported sale a Ford Model K.
And, because of Trent Boggess work recovering and recording early Ford ledgers, we know this is most likely one of the first three Model K Northwest Auto received, K numbers 9, 25 or 63, received on April 23rd and on May 7th.
Most importantly, this hill climb is recognized as Henry Ford's Model K "coming out" event, being the first known competition:
As "Motor" magazine reported, "The big car romped up the hill easily" and "that this latest creation of Henry Ford's inventive mind will be "it.""
This makes the third instance of a Thomas Flyer owner choosing a Ford Model K as their next car. Maybe just a coincidence... The question remains, what did Mr. Phelps, an experienced automobilist by now, think of his Model K?
We'll find out, when I get back to this,
W.E. Wheeler was founder and president of Northwestern Motor Vehicle Co. in Minneapolis. They were a branch of Ford Motor Co. Their contract ended with Ford in September 1912 and Ford had a company owned branch going forward.
Eventually they were known as Northwestern Automobile Co. although I don't know when that name change occurred.
I did some casual internet research and it appears that Northwestern was an agency for Thomas when it signed on with Ford. Phelps purchase of a Ford may have something to do with customer loyalty to Northwestern.
I still owe you info on Minnesota registered Ks. I'll also see if Phelps had a Ford registered in Minneapolis in 1908.
Thanks. I believe Barclay was the Thomas dealer, and had Ford before Northwestern Motor Vehicles Co. took over the Ford contract in 1905. Baclay is listed above as the dealer E. J. Phelps bought his 1905 Thomas from.
More in a bit (we have a busy morning around here...)
I re-read what I had found and agree that Barclay was the Thomas dealer, not Northwestern.
Just got off the phone with my dad. I also asked him to look up the cars Phelps had registered in Minneapolis in 1908 to see he still had a Ford - he'll get back to me.
ALSO - he said that years ago he visited E.J. Phelps, Jr. at his Lake Minnetonka home to discuss his father's involvement in the early automobile history in Minneapolis. (I didn't ask but he probably has notes of the visit in his files.)
Jr. was a prominent landscape architect - he was born in 1891 passed away in 1980. If you are gung-ho on Phelp's Model K, you could track down family members and see if they have any photo albums that contain pictures of the car, etc.
Thanks again Erik. Sounds like quite an influential family and Mr. Phelps was one of the early automobile pioneers in Minnesota.
During the summer of 1906, Mr. Phelps and one of his sons toured Europe:
Meanwhile, Henry Ford and the Packard national sales manager had a heated debate carried on in the newspapers and trade magazines concerning the merits of the six vs. four cylinder car:
Upon his return from Europe, Mr. Phelps weighed in on the Packard view of six cylinder cars. We of course, have the advantage of knowing Mr. Phelps drives a six cylinder Ford. In this letter to the editor, he mentions that he has put 5,000 mile on his six cylinder car (Ford):
It appears to me that Mr. Phelps is quite satisfied with his Model K at this point in time.
Of course, a new year is approaching, and as has been his practice, E. J. Phelps will purchase a new car again next year.
Having owned a Knox, Queen, Thomas and Ford, any guesses as to what he will choose for 1907? Will he return to a Thomas Flyer (the popular 60 hp will be out in 1907), or will he stay with a six cylinder car? Many car makers will bring out sixes for the 1907 season.
Off to a Husker women's basketball. The exiting conclusion when I get back tonight. Have a good Sunday,
Here are photos of a 1904 Know driven from Minneapolis to the St. Louis Fair in 1904. I is from an album I have that is full of early photos owned by L N Scott. Scott traveled extensively with his autos. I have three such Scott's albums. He may have known Phelps.
Swan J. Turnblad owned two Knox automobiles, the second being a 1904 "surrey." He was on the trip with Scott from Minneapolis to the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. Note the two Knox automobiles in the upper left photo, taken during the trip.
My father and I have been trying to trace their route by researching the local newspapers of the towns that they passed through or stayed overnight along the way. We have found a few accounts.
Phelps and Turnblad knew each other because of their involvement in the Minneapolis Automobile Club.
By the way, Edmund J. Phelps grandson (also named Edmund J. Phelps) lives in Wayzata according to the telephone directory. Might be worth calling him and seeing if he has any photos of the Model K.
Thanks for posting this Rob, A fine man to have owned a Queen car!!!
There is a gentleman in Bellingham Washington That owns a 1905 Queen and a 1 cylinder Knox. He has been chasing a Thomas for a number of years now. If he finds a Thomas he will have the trifecta.
A second interesting fact is that yet another 1905 Queen which was from Minnesota also residing near Bellingham Washington, and carries I believe a 2 digit Horseless Carriage license plate. This Queen has ran the New London to Brighton tour a few years back. If memory serves, this queen was owned by a state senator.
Have you dug anything up on Model Ks sold in St. Cloud? The local dealer, Tenvoorde Ford is the oldest Remaining Ford dealership. They began selling Fods in '03. They must have sold a couple of Ks. St. Cloud was a pretty affluent town at the turn of the century.
Darrel, great collection of photos by Mr. Scott.
Erik, yes, calling Mr. Phelps is a good idea. It would be interesting to locate photos of Mr. Phelps with any of his cars.
Darren, I thought of you when I saw the Queen owned by Phelps. Evidently Queen had a good reputation and active dealer in the area.
BCG, thanks for the additional info.
Eric H., I'll look into it. We're fortunate to have some ledger pages, and that Trent Boggess has organized and shared them. A spreadsheet built by Dr. Boggess is available with Carl Pates Early Ford book.
A little more work and I'll finish my part of this thread with the car Mr. phelps purchased for the 1907 season. It's obvious he (Phelps) is able to afford most cars available. The question is, based on his experiences with his previous cars, what brand and type would he choose? A four, or six cylinder? Domestic or foreign?
Spoke to my father again.
E.J. Phelp's Ford was registered in Minneapolis in 1908. He had plate 455.
It appears he did not own the Model K in 1909 as the only car registered under his name that year was an Elmore. 1909 was the first year that license plates were issued by the office of the secretary of the state.
According to my father, Phelps owned a Haynes-Apperson and an Oldsmobile in 1903 (first year registration was required in Minnesota). Registrations were under the jurisdiction of the local boiler inspector at that time.
Off the top of his head, he believes that Phelps participated in 1900 automobile tour from the Minneapolis courthouse to the Lafayette Club on Lake Minnetonka (he'll have to go through his file to confirm). My dad's 1900 Waverley Electric was also on that tour, driven by Waverley agent George Duncan (the car was eventually sold to Samuel S. Thorpe).
Thank you for the followup. It's fun to put together the many resources such as news accounts, local and state records, and auto maker records to flesh out the story of cars and/or the people who owned them.
Probably time to finish my part of this story. The information Erik and his Dad found confirm Edmund Phelps owned a Ford Model K (registered, according to their research) through 1908. However, this is not the Model K Mr. Phelps purchased in 1906.
The "new" car Mr. Phelps purchased for 1907, and we know was registered into 1908, was this car:
This portion of a Ford ledger page (courtesy of Trent Boggess research) shows E. J. Phelps purchased K number 282 sometime after April 17, 1907.
So, it appears Mr. Phelps, after owning a variety of cars including Knox, Queen, Thomas Flyer and Ford Six ("K"), again chose a Ford Model K as his next car. I couldn't have scripted it any better........
(Message edited by Rob on November 30, 2014)
The 1908 Minneapolis registration simply lists "Ford" so we're presuming it was a Model K but your evidence backs this up.
We'll have to see if Model K 252 was registered to anyone in Minnesota in 1909.
Wonderfully scripted, Rob! (I am kidding, of course, used your word) I enjoyed following this thread.
The only thing I could maybe add, although a bit of a sidestep, is about the Knox automobiles mentioned by you and pictured by Darel L above.
Anyone used to being around early one and two cylinder automobiles, knows that they are usually a bit on the small side. The one cylinder Knox, along with some smaller two cylinder models, are no exception. They are average for pre-1905 size cars. However, that model two cylinder Knox is rather large. Huge may be a better word. A good friend of mine has one. He rarely runs it, and I have never been fortunate to be around to hear it run. I have sat in it a couple times. Incredible car! Tiller steering. He has the fixed surrey top and an early windshield for the car, but prefers the look of the car without those on it.
Drive carefully, and enjoy, W2
Erik, a few more "tidbits" on the Phelps family.
This February 1901 article mentions some of the earliest Minneapolis automobile owners. E. J. Phelps was evidently one of the earliest, and avid proponents of the new invention. As of 1901, he hoped to own at least one electric, one steam and one or two gas autos at some point:
According to this piece, as a member of the Automobile Club, he played a major role in organizing the first Minneapolis hill climb. Ironically, his Queen car would win a first place, and his first Model K receive national media attention as the first Ford six entered in an open contest in the 1906 hill climb:
The fact Mr. Phelps owned several early automobiles, touring Europe in his own car (Knox), and in 1906 using a six cylinder foreign made car at a point (above article) makes his choice of a second Ford Model K even more relevant to me. Evidently he didn't know about the weak transmissions........
Or, as another K owner pointed out to me privately, "maybe he wore out the transmission of the first Model K, and so was compelled to buy as second."
Have a good week,
Rob, this last one is a bit confusing. I can't determine where exactly the hill climbs are taking place. Kenwood Parkway is a long way from the river and I'm not really sure where Riverside Hill is. There is a Riverside ave. near the river. Perhaps, it used to extend further along the route that is now the West River Parkway.
I grew up a few blocks from Kenwood Parkway and I used to go over there to watch the Antique Car Hill Climb events that were a part of the Aquatennial celebration. They stopped doing them in the late '70s.
I wonder if the early hill climbs took place at more than one site, or if the name of the hill that I grew up knowing as Kenwood Hill, had previously been called Riverside Hill, even though it was over a mile from the river.
The 1905 and 1906 (Model K included) climb are listed as Riverside, and there are a lot of cars competing.
I believe this is the first hill climb referred to in the clip about Mr. Phelps organizing the event for 1903 at Kenwood hill. He has both a Knox and Olds (you listed that as another car he owned). Maybe the location was changed as the hillclimb became more popular, or as cars required more of a challenge?
Kenwood Hill would be the in the Kenwood neighborhood. The exact route of the hill climb would need to be researched, i.e. whether or not it was strictly on Kenwood Parkway. There is a good description of the event here:
Here is Harry Pence in a Pope Toledo in a posed photo taken at a Kenwood Hill hill climb. The Minnesota Historical Society dates this as 1907 but I think it really corresponds to the first/1903 hill climb as HE Pence won first place in his class driving a Pope-Toledo.
Here's another photo from the MNHS - identified as possibly a hill climb. It's a Knox. There were four Knox automobiles in the 1903 Kenwood Hill hill climb so this photo may be from that event.
For the past couple days, I've been trying to determine where "Riverside Hill" is in Minneapolis.
My opinion is that Riverside Hill was a stretch of road which is now West River Parkway. The particular stretch I'm thinking of is a long hill.
Here's Ed Clark in a Rambler - this seems to match the May 1906 account at Riverside Hill - photo harvested from the internet:
Here's motorcyclist Guy Webb on Riverside Hill - the MNHS dates this photo as 1909 and says it is a motorcycle race:
Here are more photos of Guy Webb at the Minneapolis Motorcycle Club at Riverside Hill, May 22, 1910 according to Ky Michaelson's website (aka The Rocketman - he's an interesting fellow who lives in Bloomington, MN - maybe you've met him).
I was composing my post when Rob posted his.
I can see now that the Pope-Toledo photo I posted is a later car - so maybe it was taken in 1907.
I also witnessed at least one of the Aquatennial Hill climbs when I was a kid in the 1970s. It may have been the same route.
And I was typing a response to "Eric" and mistyped "Erik."
Can't you Scandinavian's think up a few more surnames?
Some followup. For 1907 this article (results shown) said Columbia Heights was the location of the hill climb.
In 1908, this particular article didn't mention the hill used. Many of the same owners/drivers compete in 1908:
Ford runabouts (NRS) placed in both events. It appears the Ford six didn't run. However, one did in these September 1907 Hamline (Minneapolis) Races, covering ten miles, averaging just over 42 mph: