The Slowest Automobile Race in History: The Chicago Times-Herald Race

Okay, I’m not sure if it was the slowest, but the Times-Herald Race was definitely the first car race in the United States.

The Chicago Times-Herald Race took place in Chicago in 1895, about 2 years after the first automobile was built. The initial route was to be from Chicago to Milwaukee, but the cars couldn’t handle the poor conditions of the road (plus who wants to visit Milwaukee?). The course changed to a round-trip run to Evanston and back.

First German Benz car race Chicago

photo via wikipedia

The 54-mile race took an excruciating 8 hours to complete. There was some excitement though, but by today’s standards, the race was a failure.

The “Excitement” of the Chicago Times-Herald Race

One car’s battery died almost immediately after starting, and another ran into a horse shortly after and had to call it quits, 2 more cars couldn’t make it over a hill, and one driver went unconscious from cold exposure and the race’s umpire drove it the rest of the way. 83 cars were entered in the race, but only 6 vehicles made it to the starting line, and only 2 of them finished.

However, in 1895, this was apparently a remarkable accomplishment and newspapers raved about how the horse-drawn carriage was soon to be obsolete. And they were right. Commercial production of automobiles happened only a year later.

Note: the information about the race is from on Wikipedia, there’s not much info on it elsewhere.

Tomorrow, in association with the Chicago Auto Show, a group of electric cars will recreate the route for the first time in over 100 years. You can check the full schedule and press release here but I’ve included it below:


Electric Vehicles Depart from Chicago Auto Show, Re-trace Course to Evanston

WHAT: For the first time in more than 118 years, America’s first Motor Vehicle Race will be recreated –
with a slight twist. This time around with electric vehicles only, the Electrified Vehicle Rally will depart
from the Chicago Auto Show and re-trace the same route from the original 1895 Chicago Times-Herald
motor race.
WHEN: Friday, February 15; Depart at 10 a.m. from McCormick Place/Chicago Auto Show
WHERE: McCormick Place; Gate 41 in the West Building (corner of Indiana and Cermak; park from
9:30-10 a.m.)
8-8:30 a.m. Electric vehicles staged at Gate 41, McCormick Place
8:30-10 a.m. Media opportunities
9-10:30 a.m. Driver familiarity and driver’s briefing
10 a.m. Rally begins, drivers depart
11 a.m. Rally stops at Dawes Park, Evanston
11:30 a.m. Rally leaves Dawes Park en-route to Chicago’s Center for Green Technology
12:30 p.m. Rally stops at Chicago’s Center for Green Technology; tour and lunch provided
1:25 p.m. Rally leaves CCGT, en-route for southern leg
2:15 p.m. Rally returns to McCormick Place

WHY: As electric vehicles become an increasingly popular alternative to gasoline-powered cars, the
Electrified Vehicle Rally will recreate the historic Chicago Times-Herald motor race – America’s first – this time with all electric vehicles. While electric vehicle rallies are fairly common on the West coast and
warmer regions, the Chicago Electrified Vehicle Rally aims to prove these fuel-alternative vehicles fare well
even in colder climates.
WHO: The following vehicles will depart from McCormick Place and the Chicago Auto Show:
Chevrolet Volt
• Fisker Karma
• Ford C-max Energi
• Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
• Nissan Leaf
• Tesla Model F
• Tesla Roadster
• Toyota Prius
• Toyota Prius C
• Toyota Prius PHEV
• Volkswagen Passat TDI
• VIA Motors EREV Silverado
• Smith Electric Delivery Vehicle


  1. Good idea for a post–and I like the idea of an all-electric re-creation.

    Flats were also a huge problem with the early automobile, especially given the unpaved and poor character of many roads.

    Thank you, SB

    • chicagoranter says:

      thanks for the comment Susan! I thought it was a bit of an interesting piece of history to share. Tomorrow I am excited and fortunate enough to be able to catch the rally as it stops at the Chicago Center for Green Technology so expect a follow up post and lots of pictures!


  1. […] there was only 1 and could not accommodate the dozen cars that came through for Chicago’s electric vehicle rally to re-create a 100-year-old race that took place in Chicago. You can read more about it […]

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