Dec 11 2019

Kleiner’s Kolumn: Al Poole’s Original Documents from the Helck Family Collection

The Helck Family Collection contains official documents pertaining to Peter Helck's friend Al Poole. The documents include his driver's license and subpoenas to appear in court in England and the United States. 

Of particular interest is Poole being called as a defense witness by the Locomobile Company of America in 1911 pertaining to an accident that occurred in the 1906 Vanderbilt Cup Race when he was the mechanician for driver Joe Tracy's Locomobile. 

All original documents are courtesy of the Helck Family Collection.

Art Kleiner

Caught Speeding

In his home county of Coventry in England, Alfred James Poole was summoned to appear for speeding on April 13, 1902:  ". . . as the driver of a light locomotive did drive this auto along a Public Highway there at a greater speed than is authorized by the Locomotives on Highway Act 1896". 

The Locomotives on Highway Act of 1986 defined light locomotives as being under 3 tons and established a speed limit of 14 mph, however local Government Boards could reduce it to 12 mph.  Poole was to appear on May 30, 1902 at 11 am. 

Establishment of Driver's Licensing in England

Motor Car Act of 1903 requiring driver's licenses.

License #367 was issued to Alfred James Poole on April 16, 1904. 

Coming to America

Al Poole is the driver of this 60 HP Mercedes Vedrine (Paris) in April 1904 in Sandwich, England. The automobile was owned  Eben McBurney Byers of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Al Poole with the Byers.

Issued a Subpoena in the US

Poole once again was issued a subpoena to appear in court in 1911, this time in Long Island City and related to the 1906 Vanderbilt Cup Race which was marred by several spectator accidents and one death. 


The plaintiff in the case was 14-year old, Ralph Baldwin and his father who were suing the Locomobile Automobile Company of America for negligence on the part of its employee (driver Joe Tracy). 

Joe Tracy and Al Poole in the #9 Locomobile during the 1906 Vanderbilt Cup Race.

The accident was reported in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle of October 6, 1906.

The location of the accident was the intersection of the Jericho and Oyster Bay Road in East Norwich and the North Hempstead Turnpike.

Life Threatening

The New York Times, November 4, 1906

However, the suit wasn't filed until 3 1/2 years later, seeking $25,000 in damages. (The New York Times, May 10, 1910)

A Win for the Racing Industry

"Tracey was not required to use more than reasonable care  . . ."  (The New York Times, May 11, 1910)

Plaintiffs were awarded $7,000.  (The New York Times, May 12, 1910)

Appeal by The Locomobile Company

Details of the Case

Another view of the location of the accident.  (E. Belcher-Hyde, 1906)

Opinions of the Court

Opinion for the plaintfiff  Ralph Baldwin

Opinion for the defendant Locomobile Company of America.

A New Trial is Granted

Based on the majority opinion a new trial was granted.  Further research to be conducted to determine the final outcome. 


Dec 12 2019 Brian D McCarthy 5:36 PM

Mr. Poole must have been Mr. Byers official driver. He was probably trying to be on time for something, I hope Mr. Byers stood up for Al.

I’ve been in the position of Joe & Al as far as ‘representing a company’, but thankfully the event wasn’t as dire. A tough spot to be in, especially if you take matters to heart. You just hope that all involved make out. $25,000 versus today is about $730,000. $7,000 is about $200,000 now.

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