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Charles Glidden


In 1904, Charles J. Glidden, a retired, wealthy telephone businessman and automobile enthusiast, took part in an automobile run from New York to St. Louis, sponsored by the American Automobile Association. Wishing such tours to become an annual event, Glidden donated a $2,000 silver trophy. In doing so, he became a part of automobile history. Although the long-distance reliability runs continued to be conducted by the American Automobile Association, they became known thereafter as the Glidden Tours. The annual series ran from 1905-1913 on routes that changed and stretched through the years. There were time limits between check points and a point scoring system to determine a winner. Although speed wasn’t the primary objective, penalties were assigned for lateness. The tours were grueling. Cars often broke down or were damaged by accidents. With that trophy waiting at the finish line, manufacturers as well as auto enthusiasts vied for the honored position of winner.

In 1913, the Glidden Tour ran through the upper Midwest. The trail started in the Twin Cities and it ended at Glacier Park in Montana. The route included several North Dakota stops – Fargo, Grand Forks, Devil’s Lake, Rugby, Minot, Stanley, and Williston. Altogether, it was a nine-day run over 1,245 miles.

At a time when good roads were rare, preparation was very important. A pathfinder car was sent ahead to determine where the cars should go. On this date, the official car was trekking across North Dakota. The “Mitchell Moose” was a four-cylinder, forty-horsepower stock car. The pathfinder had left Minneapolis on the 15th and averaged about 20 miles per hour. Upon arrival in Williston, the party, represented by well-known long distance driver Frank Zirbes, official pathfinder C. A. Stedman, and also W. S. Forman, reported on their journey, saying they were pleased with the overall condition of the roads. However, about a hundred miles east of Williston, they did get stuck in some quicksand—resulting in a half -day delay that required four horses to pull the car free. But then again, that was the job of pathfinder.

The 1913 race was the last of the official Glidden tours. The automobile had indeed proven its worth and reliability.

Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker


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"http://collections.mnhs.org/MNHistoryMagazine/articles/38/v38i05p205-215.pdf" http://collections.mnhs.org/MNHistoryMagazine/articles/38/v38i05p205-215.pdf

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Williston Graphic, June 26, 1913, p1