Percival Lowell’s Big Red Car

The Tale of an Astronomer and a 1911 Stevens-Duryea


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About the Book

This is the story of one car—a 1911 Stevens-Duryea Model Y “Big Six”—and its famous owner Percival Lowell, the American astronomer best known for his studies of Mars and mathematical prediction of the discovery of Pluto. The narrative follows the vehicle, a product of Frank Duryea—of the pioneering Duryea brothers—through its time with Lowell and through subsequent owners to its present status as a moving landmark of history.
This automobile made its debut in Flagstaff, which was at that time a frontier logging and cow town of Arizona with unpaved streets in what was not yet even one of the United States. It survived the years from 1911 when delivered to Lowell, through his death in 1916, through occasional use until 1938 when it was “abandoned,” then through sixty subsequent years of neglect before being restored to its original form and condition and finally returning to Lowell Observatory on Mars Hill overlooking Flagstaff.
Many of the important developments in the early history of the gasoline-powered automobile are traced to establish the context in which this remarkable vehicle was created. The community in which the Duryea brothers labored, in short lived teamwork, and their role in the evolution of the automobile industry are discussed. The text also provides an intimate look at the life of one of America’s most important astronomers.

About the Author(s)

William Lowell Putnam served as vice chairman of the Association of Maximum Service Telecasters, among his multitude of other professional credits. He is the sole trustee of the Lowell Observatory and lives in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Bibliographic Details

William Lowell Putnam
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 183
Bibliographic Info: 68 photos, index
Copyright Date: 2002
pISBN: 978-0-7864-1234-1
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface     1

1 A Horseless Carriage?      7
2 The Earliest Automobiles      13
3 The Duryeas, Stevens and Automobile Manufacturing in Springfield      28
4 The Stevens-Duryea      40
5 The Great Race     50
6 The Brave New World of Automobiles      59
7 The Motoring Lowells      72
8 Big Red’s First Trip      84
9 At Home in Flagstaff     98
10 Highways      119
11 Big Red’s Contemporaries      134
12 Beyond Lowell’s Death      141
13 Big Red Comes Home      162

Index     172

Book Reviews & Awards

“remarkably concise and well-written history…well documented…outstanding book…recommend[ed]”—Antique Automobile; “informational and entertaining…intriguing reading…a very readable book”—Old Cars Weekly.