This story begins in 1900 Nome during the Alaska gold rush. It covers a lot of ground, from Alaska, to Chicago and ending in North Dakota, between the years 1900-1909. It covers the activities of corrupt politicians, business magnates, and the Boy Scouts of America. But, let's begin at the end.
A best selling 1906 book was written based on the story, and five movies followed over the years. Two of the principles ended up owning a Ford Model K, although that is a very small prop in this tale.
Rex Beach was one of the miners with gold fever at the turn of the last century. He witnessed greed, claim jumping, and political intrigue while in the Nome Alaska region. In 1906 his book was a bestseller:
This story involves a group of corrupt officials who devise a plan to steal successful gold mine claims by immigrants in the gold rush territory. In one of the movie versions of "The Spoilers," John Wayne plays a swindled miner, while Randolph Scott plays the part of the corrupt attorney who has been appointed "gold commissioner," with authority over claims. In this version, the Randalph Scott character is based on the man who will eventually own a Ford Model K:
"Spoilers" on YouTube:
Other versions included Gary Cooper in the lead role:
And a version staring Anne Baxter, Jeff Chandler and Rory Calhoun:
I'll get back to this tomorrow. How can you go wrong when a movie staring "The Duke" is involved?
That pic with Randolph Scott and Marlene Dietrich (and a young Duke between) is a classic!
In the Rex Beach version, William Boyd is in the credits. He later went on to become my childhood hero, Hopalong Cassidy.
William Boyd was in the Gary Cooper movie version. Another well known character actor in the John Wayne movie was Harry Carry.
One of the principal "bad guys" in the scheme was R. N. Stevens. Stevens was a North Dakota politician who had been involved with the statehood congress, and would remain involved in N.D. politics for years. The San Francisco papers had less than flattering things to say about Stevens tenure as Commissioner in Nome:
Stevens was able to avoid prosecution, and the hometown paper in Bismarck took a more favorable view of his Alaska work, saying he had amassed property worth a half million dollars, or over 12 million in today's dollars:
In the meantime, Stevens also worked on other ventures, including legal work for an old North Dakota friend, W. D. Boyce. Stevens also participated in the ownership of the Boyce acquisition:
Meanwhile, W. D. Boyce, a multi-millionaire from Illinois continued his friendship with R. N. Stevens. The two families vacationed together and the men shared business ventures. Boyce is today best known as the American founder of the Boy Scouts of America. We had a thread back in 2013 about him, and his gift to Mrs. Stevens, of a Ford six cylinder car (Model K) in 1908:
2013 forum link:
The "gift" of a Ford Model K to his friends wife left me with more questions than answers. Why a Ford "six?" Why gift a car to a friend in North Dakota,mane why choose a "Ford?" Boyce was one of the wealthiest men in Illinois, with a home worth the equivalent of over 2.5 million in today's dollars. Did he choose the Ford as a gift because of a North Dakota dealership? I couldn't find any record of the cars Boyce owned, so didn't have any reason to connect the dots.
Article about the "Fine Gift:"
Boyce does mention that he gave it to Mrs. Boyce so when R. N. Broke his neck with the "high powered machine" (earlier in article), the car would pass through R. N.'s estate.
As it turns out, although W. D. Boyce is remembered today as the BSA founder, R. N. Stevens was also a well known (infamous?) politician in North Dakota, with a past.
Off to a basketball game, I'll finish this tomorrow.
I keep thinking your going to spring it on us that W.D. Boyce invented the motor meter! Maybe he chose the Ford so his friend would not have to waste time shifting gears with a crash box?? Bud in Wheeler,Mi.
John Wayne was a graduate of Glendale High School in Glendale California about 15 years before I graduated from the same school. His actual name was Marion Morrison.
Norm, I often go to Des Moines Iowa along I-80, and just west of Des Moines is the exit for Winterset, Iowa, birthplace of John Wayne (Marion Morrison). A quick Google search showed he moved to California at about the age of nine.
His mother was from Lancaster County (Lincoln) Nebraska. I also noticed he was born in 1907, about the time of this story.
Bud, sorry, no Boycemeter revelation.....
As mentioned earlier, Stevens (now an Asst. District Atty in N.D.) was a close friend of W. D. Boyce. In this article, Stevens joins Boyce for a week of hunting in nearby South Dakota:
New information I've found regarding Boyce, Stevens and the Ford six "gift" that may help explain how a Ford Model K was involved. Reviewing Illinois internet registrations online, I found a car owned by W. D. Boyce as of November, 1907:
This news article appears to confirm that Boyce owned a 35-45 hp special bodied Renault:
Not surprisingly, a 35-45 hp Renault was quite a pricey vehicle of the day. This ad places the cost of a touring and limousine at over $9,000 (over $200,000 today).
The same registration records for 1907 show Boyce owned another car. Probably not uncommon for one of the Chicago area wealthiest citizens:
So, while this Ford may not have been a Model K, I think it reasonable to suspect it was, and in all likelihood moved on to North Dakota as a gift from Boyce to Stevens in 1908.
I suspect anyone following along may find all this a bit tedious, but for me, each "Model K story" helps rehabilitate the reputation of this Ford model. It seems the car was well received, competitive, and made money for Ford, and for a brief time, placed Ford among the elite names of high end motor cars.
(Message edited by Rob on December 12, 2015)
If he was born in 1907, he graduated before I was born. That was an old school!
If any of you get to Ottawa Illinois,stop by the Scouting Museum in the down town.I finally went there this summer while doing more research on the Ottawa Body Company which was a block south of the museum.Museum is full of scouting stuff going back to its founding,along with Girl Scouts,Blue Birds,Camp Fire Girls and others.They also have a"Made In Ottawa" section with items made in Ottawa. Very nice,under visited Museum.
Norm, according to Mr. Google, He was born in May, 1907. When you said you graduated "about 15 years" after "Duke," I was surprised. My 93 year old father was born in 1922, also 15 years after 1907.
Ford Model K were in North Dakota early in their production run. The first K sales occured in mid April, 1996. This June 1906 article reports a N. D. Ford dealer has recived one:
At least one of Atty. Gen. Stevens peers owned a K too. E. Y. Sarles was Governor from 1905-1907. In 1907 he was reported buying a Stanley Steamer:
And in 1908, about the same time the Stevens receive their K, the now ex-Governor is reported racing a train, with his "big Ford machine:"
Neat stuff! I, too, enjoy reading this sort of minutia. (Anybody wanting to take a shortcut should at least read the "Gov. Sarles - Race" piece directly above)
Thank you Rob!
Drive carefully, and do enjoy! W2
The 1907 Stanley Gentleman's Speedy Roadster was advertised as "Will do 60mph on a good road."
Steam cars in the early days were in direct competition with gas cars. In those days the starting preparations were similar to a gas car--at least in length of time. As the gas cars progressed, even with self-starters, and the occurrence of automotive outings increased, the steam car's starting limitations became a real detriment. True, White and Doble overcame these, but by that time the die was cast for the Gas car.
Even today though, I don't think there were any 2 cylinder cars that can run at freeway speeds, but a Stanley can--depending on the nerves of the driver!