The first decade of the twentieth century had already seen its share of automobile races, beginning with the Gordon Bennett Races in France, sponsored by James Gordon Bennett, Jr. who owned the New York Herald newspaper. At the beginning, races were city to city (Paris to Lyon was the first) and after the 1905 the race was known as the French Grand Prix. William Kissam Vanderbilt, Jr. established the first American race event, the Vanderbilt Cup, held on Long Island from 1904 to 1910 and then on to Wisconsin, Santa Monica in 1912 and to San Francisco in 1916.
The races became progressively more daring. In 1907 the Peking to Paris race was held, spanning two continents and over ninety-three hundred miles. That race proved to the world that the automobile craze was not a fluke; however, the next major race would further convince all skeptics of the automobile and its capabilities. Audaciously, after the 1907 race, another race was proposed and this time the race would begin in New York City in the dead of winter and end in Paris, France – via Alaska and Siberia.
The Great Race of 1908
The Great Race of 1908, sponsored by the New York Times and Le Matin, a Paris newspaper, consisted of six teams (though thirteen had actually entered): one from the United States, one from Italy, one from Germany and three representing France.