Indianapolis and Marion County have a long automotive history ranging from an early role as a automobile manufacturing center, to the Motor Speedway, and the long running Indianapolis 500, which will have its 105th running this upcoming Sunday. This blog has covered a bit of Indianapolis 500 history previously although there is no Indianapolis 500 centric post for this year. However, while recently researching another blog post topic I ran across a piece of obscure Indianapolis automotive history.
The story begins first in 1923, and involved the aforementioned automotive industry in Indianapolis, and a person known as Harold ‘Daredevil’ Lockwood (not the film star of the same name). Lockwood, who sometimes went by ‘Daredevil Duke,’ was a Canadian by birth, and developed a career attempting various daring acts, especially during the Liberty Loan drives in World War I, including airplane stunts (flying them as well jumping from one plane wing to another), parachuting, climbing skyscrapers (like the Woolworth Building in New York), escape tricks, and as it is relevant to our story, endurance driving. Before that career he claimed to have served in the Canadian air service in France, although no primary source evidence of this service was located.
The 1923 endurance driving event wasn’t Lockwood’s first appearance in Indianapolis. In 1919 he made a scheduled climb of the dome on the Marion County Courthouse. The “human fly” as the Indianapolis News called him, was delayed due to the threat of arrest for not paying for a license to make the climb. After paying for the license, he successfully climbed the dome before a large crowd of onlookers. Lockwood told authorities that half of the proceeds he collected from the crowd would be given to the Salvation Army, while he kept the other half. The News reported that the Salvation Army was unaware of that arrangement.
In 1923 Lockwood was to attempt to break the world’s record for continuous non-stop driving and would commence his drive from the southside of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument at noon on Friday, September 14, 1923. He had previously broken the record in Toledo by driving non-stop for 120 hours. The ‘record’ attempt was sponsored by the Conduitt Auto Company, a local auto dealer located at St. Joseph and Meridian, and Lockwood was driving a Maxwell touring car, a brand carried by the Conduitt dealership.
His planned completion time was noon on Wednesday, September 19th, 1923, and his route would take him out of Indianapolis and around central Indiana, with visits to Columbus, Shelbyville, Anderson, Muncie, Kokomo, and Noblesville, among others. Lockwood stood to win a $2,000 ‘wager’ if successful, while Conduitt would reap the publicity benefits. Lockwood would also be handcuffed to the steering wheel of the car so he could not leave the vehicle. He would also be monitored by a doctor and nurse, who would sometimes ride in the car with him, and he could not stop unless to obey traffic laws or being blocked by other traffic.
Lockwood would finish his endurance drive on Friday, September 21, 1923, after driving for 120 hours and 30 minutes. A crowd estimated at 10,000 was waiting for him and the Indianapolis Star described Lockwood’s physical condition as poor. His eyes were almost swollen closed, and he was carried out of the car, his legs shaking “like a man in the last stages of palsy.” He was taken to the Washington Hotel, where massage therapists worked on his cramping legs. The car was also in rough shape. Lockwood had struck a bridge abutment and damaged the bumper, the windshield was broken, and the fenders dented. He been involved in a crash with a Ford on the National Road (US 40) east of Indianapolis and had also collided with a cow south of Greenwood. The Star also reported that “hoodlums” had attempted to run him off the road at one point, although the location of this was not stated. Despite the damage, Lockwood told a crowd at the Circle Theater that evening, where the car was also displayed, that despite the damage, the car never failed him, and the engine kept running. Overall, Lockwood drove 3,560 miles, and received an increased award of $3,000.
But Lockwood was not done with Indianapolis. In July of 1926, he attempted to again break the record, although this time he was sponsored by the company of George B. Ray, who operated a Paige-Jewett auto dealership. Other sponsors included Plaza Oil Company, and Polk’s Sanitary Milk Company, the latter which provided milk for Lockwood to drink during the drive. Polk’s ran ads in local newspapers touting their milk, and Lockwood’s use of the beverage was a “remarkable tribute to the nourishing, vitality-producing qualities of this wholesome food!” No word on how much Lockwood was paid by Polk’s to only consume their product. The News reported that Lockwood explained that only milk gave him the “strength and stamina to last out the long grind.” Haag Cut-Price Drug Stores also boasted of its sponsorship, and that Lockwood chose their chain to furnish medical supplies and Camel cigarettes. No mention was made of how the Camels supplemented the milk ration.
Leo Krauss Jewelers, located at 113 W. Washington Street, also ran large ads promoting the drive, claiming that Lockwood had chosen a “strap watch,” basically a wristwatch, to use during the drive. The company also sponsored a contest for guessing how many miles Lockwood would drive, with the award for winning being a men and women’s wristwatch. The Paige sedan Lockwood drove was decked out with materials from each sponsor (photo above), including large milk jugs from Polk’s. Building hype for the event, Lockwood had also spent the previous week and a half before the endurance record attempts in Indianapolis, performing various flying stunts and straightjacket escapes.
Lockwood kicked off his second Indianapolis drive on Monday, July 12, 1926 from the intersection of Illinois and Washington Streets. He circled downtown, and also made detours to visit sponsors of the drive and on the second day, drove to Martinsville. He also made trips to Muncie and Logansport. He took on additional gasoline as the car was still moving and would drive through Monument Circle to receive his ration of refreshing milk from a Polk truck. His second Indianapolis drive was completed on Saturday, July 17, 1926, after 124 hours. Like his previous drive, Lockwood was pulled from the car (photo above), and was then transferred to an ambulance. The News quoted him as saying "Please leave me alone and let me sleep." However, instead of going to the hospital, he was taken to the Paige-Jewett dealership, where a recovery area, also described as a bedroom suite, had been set up in the front window of the salesroom, for all to watch as he slept and recovered for what may have been a contractually obligated six-hour period. Afterwards, Lockwood was scheduled to appear at the Riverside Amusement Park, where he was to oversee a bathing beauty contest.
While Lockwood’s Indianapolis events were popular and garnered much local attention, these were not his only endurance driving adventures. While researching what turned out to be the rather limited information on Lockwood, I located other endurance drives by Lockwood. One was the Toledo event mentioned above. The others were in Minnesota and in Tampa, which bear a striking resemblance to the drives in and around Indianapolis. In both cases, he drove for over one hundred hours, was seeking a ‘record,’ and had numerous local sponsors, including the use of a vehicle from a local car dealership. Another reference to a drive in Miami was also found. While popular to the residents of the locales where he drove, it appears that Lockwood had made it practice of traveling the country and completing endurance runs on behalf of local business as an advertising promotion, which also happened to pay him quite well for a few days of non-stop driving.
Fort Wayne Gazette: May 25, 1920
Indianapolis Star: September 14, 1923, September 16, 1923, September 23, 1923
Indianapolis News: June 30, 1919, July 8, 1926, July 13, 1926, July 16, 1926
Logansport Pharos-Tribune, July 15, 1926
Indianapolis Times, September 19, 1923
Daredevil Lockwood on his One-hundred hour drive handcuffed to the wheel, Minnesota Historical Society (1925), http://collections.mnhs.org/cms/display?irn=10731550&return=
View of "Daredevil Lockwood" sitting in his automobile at end of endurance run: Tampa, Fla. (February 22, 1926)