Mystery Auto

Mike Balenti’s granddaughter sent me a photo of Mike and four of his Carlisle Indian School teammates in an automobile at Union Station in St. Louis. The photo was on the back of a postcard mailed in late November 1908. Checking the record confirmed that the team was on an extended road trip. The November 20, 1908 edition of The Arrow reported, “Our Varsity team will leave for the west on Wednesday, with our coach and the substitutes, to play with Minnesota University, St. Louis University, Nebraska University, and Denver University.” Newspaper accounts reflect that the Indians lost to Minnesota then won the other three games. This was the last time they played Minnesota. No coverage of the game was printed in The Arrow. All it said was, “We notice by the papers that our first football team lost to Minnesota University last Saturday by the score of 11-6. The news causes a surprise, for it was generally expected here that Minnesota was our easiest team on the western schedule. Judging from the report that our athletic relations with that-team-has been broken, we would infer that our boys failed to get the treatment there they had reason to expect.”

An Associated Press report stated, “Glen S. Warner, athletic director of the Carlisle Indian School tonight gave out a statement denying that, the University of Minnesota has cancelled athletic relations with Carlisle.” This report implies that Minnesota may have had a beef with Carlisle, but we are all too aware of how often newspapers get it wrong. Regardless, the two schools never played again. In fact, that was the last game Carlisle played against a Big Ten team.

Because I am interested in old cars, I tried to figure out the make and model of the car in the photo. It had an unusual hood that sloped downward on the sides and front. I recalled having seen photos of a Renault having a similar hood. On closer inspection, the Renault hood was a little different but I found a couple other French makes that had similar hoods. So, I posted questions on two old car sites, one on either side of the pond. Bozi Mohacek, webmaster of a site in Surrey, England posted a response to my question on the AACA site in Hershey, PA. His posting led to the correct identification. 1937hd45 posted a closeup of a 1903 Thomas Model 18 that looks very much like the car in the photo. Wondering if the car in question could have been of a later vintage, West Peterson informed me that the Thomas used a different engine and hood in 1904. Along the way I learned that a 1907 Thomas Flyer won the Great Race from New York to Paris in 1908, but that’s a story for a different blog.

1903-thomas

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One Response to “Mystery Auto”

  1. larry rutenbeck Says:

    Tom – I am interested in obtaining any photographs of Mike Balenti. Would it be possible to get a scan of the photo you refer to?

    Additionally, I recently received a CD of an interview of Cecelia Balenti from Cal State Fullerton that was recorded in the early 1970s as a part of an oral history project. Information provided below:

    http://coph.fullerton.edu/NativeAmericanProject.asp
    BALENTI, Cecilia M. (1885- )
    O.H. 634
    Interviewer: Nancy Hunsaker
    Date: May 4 and 20, 1971
    Status: Not transcribed
    Tape length: 3 hrs. 20 min.

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