In March 1908, a grey, six-cylinder, double seater Thomas Flyer automobile roared through Goldfield, Nevada.
In December 2004, the car’s image on a postcard, with a sign calling it the “Pathfinder,” would remind Fred Holabird why he created his auction house.
With other auctions “selling things like Buffalo Bill Cody photographs and Remington art, you don’t see the everyday Western Americana,” says Fred, who has been bringing exactly that to the public.
Holabird Americana’s recent Internet auction, which closed on December 29, brought in over $15,000. Although Holabird also conducts live auctions, its Internet auctions are reserved for items with an estimated value between $25-200. For many of the auction’s items and most of the historical Nevada lots shown, collectors set the bar high.
Many Westerners undoubtedly awaited the Thomas Flyer car as it drove across the U.S. in a worldwide race from New York to Paris (via roads and ships).
George Schuster of Buffalo, New York, drove, and once he made it through Nevada, he steered the vehicle toward San Francisco. By the time Schuster reached the Golden Gate on March 24, he had already left his competitors far behind: the Italian Zust was in Utah; the French DeDion and the German Protos were still in Wyoming; and the French Motobloc had broken down in Omaha.
But when the Flyer reached Paris on July 30, having traveled 13,000 miles in 169 days, it came in four days behind the German Protos. Yet, today, the automobile that was the only American entry sits in the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada, as the winning car. Why? Since the Protos did not drive from Utah to Seattle, it was penalized 30 days, making it the second place finisher. Italy was third.