Early Auto Race Uses Glacier Park As Finish Line, From 1902 to 1913...


In 1913, a road rally designed to promote the “horseless carriage” used Glacier National Park as its finish line. Known as the Glidden Tour, the transcontinental road race over mountains and tough roads showcased the “reliability and endurance” of the automobile; it was also organized to call attention to the condition of roads and the state laws restricting the use of the automobile. A $2,000 cash purse was awarded to the winner.

   Organized by AAA (the American Automobile Association), the tour began in 1902 and ended in 1913 with a race from Minneapolis, Minn. to Glacier National Park—a distance of some 1245 miles.

   The tour made headlines wherever it went and was the talk of the town, even in Whitefish, where many residents made the journey to Glacier Park to view the finish line.

   The finish line, according to a July 11, 1913 New York Times article, was grandly marked for the participants.

   “When the lofty peaks of Glacier Park come into sight the tourists will have a unique view of them, for arrangements have been made whereby beacons of Greek fire will illuminate the mountains from a number of commanding points.”

   While breakdowns were common, and equal enemy to the racers was the poor condition of roads—many roads were impassable. Also hazardous were constables that set speed traps for the contestants.

    Private automobile owners as well as manufacturers competed in the race. Manufacturers ultimately gained much from the exposure—American automobiles won all 11 races, usurping European automobile prestige. By 1913, the last year of the race, manufacturer’s entries dominated the field.

   The race series ended because it achieved its goals of promoting the automobile; the public was captivated by the races and the automobile was proved reliable.

   Of course, Whitefish was already aware of the potential of the automobile—by 1912, a total of three residents owned cars.

Some cool history about Glidden Tours in Montana click HERE