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Carlton's Road trip to the 


July 9th- 11th 2010



BarneyCrop_1600x1010.jpg (129354 bytes)

c1903 26" x 16" Barney Oldfield poster, photographed on location in 

store as found 


It was just an ordinary little mall with all the typical mediocre stuff....I jammed thru the whole store in about 3 minutes...As I was nearing the end I looked up on the wall of a booth and saw a 26" wide by 16" tall framed poster with BARNEY OLDFIELD emblazoned across the top, underlined with "THE WORLD'S CHAMPION AUTOMOBILIST". Although Barney Oldfield was the most famous race car driver in America between 1900 and 1920, for some reason it's the only poster I've ever seen of him. You so seldom make a great find in an antiques store these days, that when you finally do it kind of puts you in shock, like you're dreaming it.



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Close up of photo in poster


A large photo of him driving an antiquated looking one-seater race car took up most of the poster. Barney is wearing a tie, goggles, and a strange Tartan Hat Close.jpg (48750 bytes) Tartan type hat. Subsequent research uncovered Barney was under contract with pioneering automobile manufacturer Alexander Winton of the Winton Motor Carriage Company from August 1903 to April 1904. To promote his company Alexander Winton owned and raced three evolutions of  "The Winton Bullet". The original was followed by "Bullet Number 2", and "Bullet Number 3". Based on comparison photos, the car in the photo is "Bullet Number 2". That would make this poster from very early in Barney's racing career. Moreover, Alexander Winton was of Scottish heritage...which would likely explain why Barney is wearing a Tartan hat. I'm not an expert in automobile racing posters but being from the 1903-04 era, it would have to be one of the earliest American examples!


Above, Barney Oldfield in Bullet No. 2 on right, William Graham in Bullet No. 3 on left

The evolution of the Winton Bullet race car

Produced by Alexander Winton of Winton Motor Carriage Company, Cleveland OH, Incorporated 1897


The circular gas tank is located directly behind him and appears to double as a back support. A long lever extends from his right. I assume it's the transmission shifter but as archaic as the car is, it could be a brake of some kind. Apparently he was racing on dirt since you can see a stream of dust along the ground. The name BULLET is painted on the side, and the letter N following would have been for "Bullet No. 2". The large wheels with white tires were about the total height of the car and appear to be made of wood. Kind of like one you'd see on a horse PICT7598_1600x1200.jpg (120846 bytes)drawn wagon. Coincidently, the next day at the Portland show I saw an actual wheel like it. On the left side of the poster was promotional copy touting his racing feats laid out in the archaic broadside style of the day with multiple font styles. 


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Today, we're so familiar with the automobile, all we see is an antiquated curiosity....but in the 1903-04 era this poster is from, the car Barney is driving would have been riveting.  



The poster was printed on card stock and two corners were chipped. There were scratches on the surface and a good sized water stain across the bottom middle. The once white cardstock had yellowed from age, and the red ink appeared to have faded to pink as if from exposure to sunlight. Even with the damage it still looked good. I actually prefer some damage since the reproductions these days are so good. Even so, it's not uncommon to see reproductions with induced fatigue, so you have to be careful. It was framed with some funky non-glare Plexiglas which impedes clarity and is unsuitable for important works. I couldn't examine the back but I studied it best I could in the frame and felt confident it was original from the period. The most convincing aspect was the brittleness and resulting cracks and chipped corners. Brittleness is the one thing I've not seen introduced by a forger. Modern cardstock would be flexible and not leave clean breaks like the broken off corners of this poster.



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Close in photos of cracks 

and chips due to brittleness


The price tag said $225.00 which was probably more reasonable than the seller knew. I asked the clerk what was the best she could do. She said she hadn't been able to reach the owner all day and could only authorize 10% off which made it $202..50. I said I'd go $175.00. I was very curious how long something that great had been on the floor without anyone buying it so I asked how long they'd had it. Only about a week the clerk said. She got a BarneyReceipt_800x1200.jpg (71720 bytes)hold of the seller who said they'd only had it out a short time and the best was $ I pulled the trigger. One nice thing was there's no sales tax in Oregon. So there was $16.00 or so dollars in my pocket I'd have had to pay in California! BarneyBack_1600x1200.jpg (101444 bytes)On the back is a stamp for a frame shop in Los Angeles. Even though it's not much, it's very nice to have a little clue as to where it's been. I can speculate it came out of the L.A. area and perhaps promoted his appearance there. 


Finding something you've never seen before is one of the most exciting aspects of collecting. When I drove into that town, in a million years, I'd have never guessed I'd find a Barney Oldfield poster. I could have was nothing in Redding....I gotta get to Portland, I don't have time to stop and get off the highway...there's probably nothing there. But that's how finds are go make it happen, turn over every rock! 



From there it was back on the road for Portland. I got into my hotel around 11:00PM that night, being a Thursday. The Portland Antiques show opens to the public on Saturday and Sunday but offers an early entry pass for $30.00 that lets you in on Friday while the dealers set up. Early entry can come in starting at 8:00AM. Of course getting in so late the night before and not being a morning person I got to the show at 9:00AM Friday.....








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