Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Algonquin Illinois Automobile Hill Climb Contest (1906-1912)

In 1906 the Chicago Automobile Trade Association with the Chicago Motor Club and Chicago Automobile club decided it was about time to field test the many models of cars being made available to the public. Using the hill climbing contests would be an additional marketing approach to entice prospective automobile buyers into purchasing "the best in the field" for their own personal use. Power, endurance and speed were major selling points for the automobile maker.
Automobiles involved in the Algonquin Hill Climbing Contest lining a road. 
The association and Motor Club started searching the Chicago area for hills and steep roads. Hills and roads were found in Algonquin, Illinois; a sleepy little town on the Fox River met their criteria need to qualify for hill climb contests, close to Chicago, steep hills, good roads from Chicago, a railroad, and hotel accommodations for drivers and spectators, two large towns nearby to cater to the overflow. What more could the club wish for when planning this regional event? So began the first organized auto hill climb contest west of the east coast.
Crowds sitting in and standing next to s parked behind a wire fence on a field during the Algonquin Hill Climbing Contest.
The year 1909 was the zenith of all the seven hill climb contests with 85 cars entering representing 26 different manufacturers. (Note: Up until this time, there were no road signs showing the way to Algonquin. The Chicago Automobile Club completed an association project to create road signs to help expected auto traffic to find their way to the Hill Climb competitions.) Due to the expected large number of spectators attending the 1909 Hill Climbs that could result in injuries and mishaps, the Auto Club petitioned and was granted by the Governor of Illinois to release Company E of the 3rd Illinois Infantry stationed in Elgin to help crowd control during the practice and competition.
Driver Edgar Apperson sitting in the driver's seat of an Apperson Automobile during the Algonquin Hill Climbing Contest.
Driver J C Vaughn sitting in an  at the starting line on a road during the Algonquin Hill Climbing Contest.
Over 20,000 spectators descended upon this little village on Auto Day. The Chicago Northwestern ran special trains from Chicago to Elgin to bring spectators into the Algonquin area. The Morton House and Riverview Hotels as well as the hotels in Elgin and Crystal Lake were filled to overflowing. Several villagers opened their homes also to accommodate the overflow. Villagers rented their barns to these men and their dust throwing machines.
Driver George Salzman driving an Thomas-Flyer Automobile during the Algonquin Hill Climbing Contest.
In 1910 The American Auto Association designated the Algonquin Hill Climb as a National Event sanctioned by the Automobile Association of America. Only two other events bore this badge -- The Glidden Tour and the Elgin National Stock Chassis Road Races. 
Driver J H Seek driving a National  up a dirt road on a hill during the Algonquin Hill Climbing Contest.
The hill climb took place on two hills, i.e., Perry Hill one mile south of Algonquin and Phillips Hill (Route 31 North). Later after a dispute with Dundee Township in 1909, the use of Perry Hill was discontinued and replaced with a new hill, the Algonquin Hill (Huntington Drive or Jayne's Hill).
Driver Moukmier driving a Staver Automobile up a hill during the Algonquin Hill Climbing Contest.
The use of hill climbs began to decline in 1911 when they outlived their usefulness and purpose. As automobiles became faster and more powerful, the hills no longer afforded much of a challenge to the newer vehicles. In 1913 the last contest was cancelled with 20 entries and the Algonquin Hill Climb association surrendered its charter and disappeared into history. 
Crowds standing in front of the Morton House during the Algonquin Hill Climbing Contest.
However, in those few short years, Algonquin made a name for itself in the annals of automobile history. One of the Algonquin trophies can still be seen at the Ford Museum display in Dearborn, Michigan. 
Driver Walter White driving a White Steamer Automobile during the Algonquin Hill Climbing Contest.
The Algonquin Historic Commission was fortunate in being able to acquire the 1908 divisional trophy, which can be viewed in the Commission's display case at the Historic Village Hall. Arthur W. Greiner of Elgin won the trophy.
Crowds standing in front of the Morton House during the Algonquin Hill Climbing Contest.
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 


  1. How fun!! Probably more dangerous than the Norge Ski Jump in Fox River Grove!!

  2. Those hills are pretty steep today but the roads are in a little better shape.

  3. Back in 1991 there was an Algonquin Hill Climb trophy in the display case at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.


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