Saturday, September 19, 2015

1911 Speedwell

 postcard of the Speedwell from the Autorama

I often hear from folks who own one of my father's cars. But recently I heard from someone whose family sold him a car. They wondered if I had any information about the car (sadly I did not) or any photos of the car (which I did).

The car in question was a 1911 Speedwell, which my father bought in 1941 for $350.  Richard Cook, nephew of the seller (and a teenager at the time), wrote a story about the transaction in the September/October 1995 issue of Horseless Carriage Gazette.

The Speedwell was displayed in both the Melton Museum in Norwalk, and later at the James Melton Autorama in Florida. Subsequently, it went to Dr. Samuel Scher's collection (in Mamaroneck, NY) and then to Bill Harrah's collection.  I wonder where it is now.

 The Speedwell on parade in Framingham, Massachusetts, Autumn  1941


Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Revelers

Lately I have been in touch with a fellow who is a doctoral candidate in music performance at University of North Carolina at Greensboro. The focus of his doctoral dissertation is on male quartets of the 1920s and the transition from the acoustic recording process to the electrical process.

We have been having a wonderful time exchanging information, photos and recordings of The Revelers.

Here is the latest photograph he sent (from the University of Texas-Austin historic photo archives). It is one I have not seen. 

The Revelers were born in 1925 from an older group called the Shannon Quartet, so named because Irish songs were very popular 1918 when they first came together to make recordings for the Victor Company. Until 1925, they were only heard in recordings and on the radio, but in the summer of that year they started making concert tours, including one to Great Britain where they sang for the Prince of Wales and Princess Mary. The original group consisted of Lewis James and Charles Hart (tenors), Elliott Shaw (baritone) and Wilfred Glenn (bass). In 1925, Charles Hart left the group, and was replaced by Franklyn Bauer. In due time he too left to pursue a solo career, and the quartet went in search of another tenor. In 1927, Dr. Frank Black became their accompanist and arranger. And they hired James Melton as first tenor.

Monday, July 6, 2015

A Motorsport Mystery

Last week I had an email from a fellow in the UK. He recently bought, at an auction in Wales, a group of motorsports memorabilia, amongst which is a trophy awarded to the winner of the "James Melton Museum Sprint Race 1949." He is trying to track down information on the trophy and contacted me.

Where was the sprint race? And why was the trophy named after the museum and not simply James Melton?  Was it to publicize the museum? Could the race possibly have been at the museum property (unlikely)? Evidently sprint races were held at the Thompson Speedway in Thompson, Connecticut, which is not too far from the museum's location in Norwalk, Connecticut. I am not aware that my father had any particular association with that racetrack, but who knows?

At any rate, I’m hoping that someone out there can shed some light on this mystery.  

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

54 Years ago today....

Fifty-four years ago today my father died. This is the appreciation his friend and fellow automobile collector Sam Scher wrote in Antique Automobile magazine.

Saturday, April 11, 2015


I had a lovely surprise the other day in the form of an unexpected parcel.  It contained this award plaque given to my father in 1959, and came from Dick King of Redding, Connecticut.  What a gift! I am thrilled to have it.  The 1907 Rolls Royce was one of my father's (and my) favorite cars. It was painted dark green and had red leather seats, hence the license plate XMAS.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

1925 Rolls Royce

1925 Rolls Royce

Back in November, I visited a friend in Bethesda, Maryland. As part of our sightseeing tour around the area, we went to visit Hillwood, Marjorie Merriweather Post’s estate (now a museum) in northwest Washington.  Quite a fascinating place.

It wasn’t until I got home that I remembered that Mrs. Post GAVE my father a car, a 1925 Rolls Royce Town Car.  He wrote about it in his memoir of car collecting Bright Wheels Rolling.  [I do intend to contact a curator at the museum to see if there is any information in their archives about this gift to my father.]

Here is what he wrote in the book:

“Mrs. Marjorie Merriweather Post Davies owned this Twenty Town Car, and believe it or not, she gave it to me. Not only did she give it to me, complete with solid ivory interior fittings, but she put brand-new tires on it first. And when I said I would send a man for it, Mrs. Davies said certainly not, she’d send it to me. And she did!”

And there’s another connection (tenuous as it may be). Mrs. Post’s first husband was Edward Bennett Close, who is the grandfather of my Rosemary Hall school mates artist Tina Close and actress Glenn Close.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Apologies! and a nice story...

Apologies for the six months hiatus. In October, when I retired, after 26 years at Dartmouth College,  I thought I would have much more free time.  I seem to have less.  Or is it just less self-discipline?  At any rate, for what it's worth, I'm back on track.

Here is the most recent James Melton legacy story:

When I was in Maine last August, doing the reading from my book at the Seal Cove Auto Museum, I was reunited with Tina Weeks, who is the daughter of Richard Paine, whose antique car collection is the museum.  One of the cars in her father’s collection was once in my father’s collection. (A 1913 Peugeot.) See September 6, 2014 blog post.   In between my father and her father, the car was owned by Dr. Sam Scher, a plastic surgeon in NYC.  He was a good friend of my father’s in his later years. Well, Tina had somehow contacted Dr. Scher’s grandson, Bernard Shuster, and urged me to do likewise.  So I did, and sent him a copy of my book.  Some weeks later a large box arrived from Dr. Shuster.  In it was a hat that had belonged to my father! (Barely worn, Knox, with my father’s name stamped in gold on the inside band.)  Also included was a very nice note that his grandfather had owned the hat, and that he—Bernard—had hoped someday to repatriate it to a member of the Melton family!!  Isn’t that amazing. I mean, my father has been dead for 54 years! (Dr. Scher died in 2000.)