My First AACA Library Visit

My First AACA Library Visit
Written by Donald R. Hoke, Ph.D. of The Virtual Steam Car Museum, Inc.

In the spring, I had my first opportunity to visit the AACA Library & Research Center to see what information it might hold about the Steam Vehicle Corporation of America, the last dying effort of the Stanley company.  It was a wonderful experience and I cannot wait to get back.  If you have yet to visit the AACA Library, you owe yourself a visit.

Librarian Chris Ritter introduced me to the collection, but not before having me leave my bag at his desk.  This was an instant signal that the library was run by professional.  I was given a tour through the 6,000-plus books in the stacks with an emphasis on the steam car section, and then was told to ask the staff for anything I wanted to see in the literature collection.  As a recovering museum director, I was insanely jealous of the library’s easy-to-manipulate compacting storage system.

Most of the books in the library I already owned or had seen, but a few were new to me.  Yes, I could take all the notes I wanted, but pencils only! … another indication of the library’s professionalism.

After reviewing several books, I asked for the Stanley Steam files.  A series of acid-free Hollinger boxes was instantly presented, in which were acid-free folders arranged by year.  More professionalism!  It is indeed fortunate that the collection is sorted by maker, as the library has some 400,000 pieces of sales literature, photographs, owners manuals, and clippings.

I then spent a delightfully relaxing afternoon reading through year after year of Stanley Steam folders.  The joy of simply sitting in a high-end library doing research and interacting with professionals cannot be under estimated for an historian.

1900 LocomobileAgain, most of what the AACA Library holds, I had already seen, but there were a few gems.  There were two 1924 articles from Motor Age about the corporate change and the new Stanley models in 1925, the Stanley Model SV 252 G (sedan) and 252A (phaeton) cars to be premiered at the New York and Chicago auto shows.  There was the front page of an article about the first automobile in Yosemite Park, a Locomobile.  With a reference to the July 1925 issue of Touring Topics, I can find the entire article.  The Virtual Steam Car Museum has a press photo of this car in Yosemite Park, the same photo that appeared in the Touring Topics article.

1905 PostcardThe AACA Library also has a wonderful postcard of a Stanley Steam car headed up Mt. Washington that I had never seen.  It is the same image used on the back of a menu for the Ormond Hotel, Omond Beach, Florida, on March 26, 1910.  The image may have been used on other menus in the hotel chain.

1910 Ormond Beach Dinner Menu

The Dinner Menu from The Hotel Ormond for Saturday March 16, 1910

The library staff kindly made a few photocopies for me at a very reasonable charge and we discussed scanning.  Yes, the AACA Library will scan items for its researchers, but it also allows researchers to bring their own scanners, which is very nice.  Yes, I’ll be back in the fall with my scanner and spend some time looking through the 40,000 periodicals that include nearly 1,800 different titles.  That might take more than an afternoon.  The library also permits the use of these scans, and they will appear in the Virtual Steam Car Museum with a citation crediting and a link to the AACA Library & Research Center.

Since I had time, I asked for the White steam car files, and again I was cheerfully presented with several more acid-free Hollinger boxes filled with chronologically organized material in acid-free folders.  As with the Stanley material, I had seen much if not most of the White material, but again, there were several gems, among which was a delightfully simple postcard.

Many postcards featuring steam cars are not so identified, and this was such an example.  Someone who knows White steam cars can recognize the vertical condenser, the flaring fenders, and the lack of an engine crank as characteristic of a White.  Since the Virtual Steam Car Museum has a very nice and growing postcard collection, this was a card we simply had to have.

In my hotel room that night, I logged on to eBay, and to my surprise, found one with a “Buy it Now” button.  I did.  Then I found two more, both carrying 1910 cancellation marks.  By the time I went to sleep, the card was in the mail to my home in Dallas.

After visiting the Carlisle Events show later in the week, I attended an advertising show and found myself sitting at a dealer’s stand sorting through a box of automobile cards.  Interestingly, I found a card with the same gesso border and the same small red car viewed from the rear.  Was this the same White steam car as the card I had seen in the AACA Library and had just purchased on eBay?  I paid a few dollars to find out, and happily, it was.

Are there other cards in this series or are these the only two?  I don’t know, but someday when I am going through some antique dealer’s card box, I hope to find out.  And it all started at the AACA Library & Research Center.

left 1  Right 1

left 2  Right 2

This card shows a White steam car driving along a river. The colored photo is set in a fancy gesso frame. After seeing this card in the AACA collection, I purchased this one on eBay. Its divided back dates it from 1907 forward. Postcards prior to 1907 had undivided backs. The card was addressed, but never mailed. Other identical cards carry 1910 postmark dates.
This post card carries the same gesso boarder and almost certainly shows the same White steam car, now heading away from the photographer. Although never mailed, it carries the date of January 2, 1909, suggesting it was produced in 1908. The reverse sides of both cards are basically identical and carry the monogram of the same printer.

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