What’s in a Picture

Auto-race enthusiasts cheer drivers zooming toward the Old Orchard Beach pier

Collections of Stanley Museum

Auto-race enthusiasts cheer drivers zooming toward the Old Orchard Beach pier in one of the hundreds of American Automobile Association–sanctioned events held during the early 20th century. Motor racing was no longer a novelty when this photo was taken, around 1912, but it still drew enormous crowds. For a few years, OOB residents had turned up their noses at race promoters who coveted their 7-mile beach. In 1911, they finally relented, perhaps because the town was transitioning from exclusive resort to blue-collar weekend getaway, thanks to trolleys and trains that brought in Biddeford millworkers and, as one haughty New York Times article put it, “cheap excursionists” from away. The first formal races that year drew 50,000 spectators. Driver L.F.N. Baldwin covered a mile in 39 seconds (92.3 mph), setting a new record for beach racing. At the finish line, he pushed his goggles atop his head and grinned at swarming fans. A decade later, daredevils of a different sort would make the same gesture as Old Orchard Beach became a launching point for nonstop transatlantic flight attempts.


Virginia Wright

Virginia M. Wright is the senior editor at Down East.