Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Los Angeles to Camp Curry Yosemite Economy Runs, 1916 to 1926

Map of Camp Curry in 1926
A Tour Bus taking folks through the valley at Yosemite, date unknown
Road map of Yosemite Park, 1919

“Speed will be limited to six miles per hour, except on straight stretches when approaching teams will be visible, when, if no teams are in sight, this speed may be increased to an approximate maximum speed of ten miles per hour.”

For many years I used James J. Flink's The Automobile Age in my auto history classes. It is a great book and definitive in many respects. My students, however, found the detail overwhelming at times. And I too wondered why certain topics were developed, including that of the relationship between the National Park System and the diffusion of the automobile. Well, again I have to defer to Dr. Flink, as I have recently discovered in my work on the early Los Angeles to Yosemite Economy Runs. Flink lays some groundwork for what I am now following up on , which really is a part of the historical continuity connected to the Mobilgas Economy runs.

Historians often work backwards in time, and thus in examining the origins of the Mobilgas Economy Runs I was forced to go back well beyond my original time frame of 1936-1968.

In reviewing many newspaper articles in the period 1916 to 1926 or so, I have discovered that there was a mania not only to get to Yosemite from either Los Angeles or the Bay area, but also that there was enormous interest in fuel economy, particularly after the U.S. entered WWI in March of 1917. Various marques sponsored their own economy runs, including Maxwell and Essex. And communities began to promote short weekend trips to places like Yosemite, which is promoted on the Yosemite end of the trip by camp owners like Foster Curry, who in 1917 began sponsoring a Camp Curry Cup Economy run from, Los Angeles. It was a competition that dealers because quickly engaged in, and the publicity derived from the runs served as the basis of many newspaper advertisements at that time. The economy runs also served as starting points for campaigns to get better roads built in California. The AAA would sanction these runs by 1924, and safeguards began to be employed to minimize cheating of various kinds.

The cars are largely unfamiliar to us living in 2009, and include the Overland, Maxwell, Stephens, Oakland, McFarlan and Kissel.

For example, here are the results from the 1924 run:

1924 Los Angeles – Camp Curry Yosemite Economy Run

Standard Oil California – Red Crown Gasoline

Official Records – Class Winners





Overland, Model 92

R. Bonaccini


Overland, Model 92

Joe Bozzani


Oakland Sedan

A.L. Peterson



H.L. Nichelson


McFarlan 6

V.V. Hilliard

Closed Car

Oakland Sedan

A.L. Peterson

Note that the sponsor is Standard Oil and Red Crown Gasoline.

1 comment:

  1. Hello We are so excited to be able to ask you about the 1926 Los Angeles to Yosemite Economy Run. Our grandfather, Benton Trerise, won the Closed Car division driving a 1926 Stutz Bear Cat entered by Lynn Buxton. We were wondering what information you have on this race. We have some of the original newspaper articles. We are attempting to find a way to digitize them. Hoping to hear from you soon.
    Best Regards,
    Gayle Trerise Kempf