In 1876 Civil war veteran Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel Albert Augustus Pope visited the Philadelphia Exposition and left with a new found passion for cycling that saw him corner the market in US patents for the new mode of transport which reputedly financially rewarded him to the tune of $10 per cycle made in the USA as the new past time took off. By 1896 Pope’s own Columbia brand cycles had become the largest cycle manufacturer in the USA.
Pope’s interests diversified to include motor cycles and mopeds as internal combustion motors evolved and in 1897 Pope started manufacturing electric vehicles in Hartford, Connecticut. With over 500 vehicles built under the engineer Hiram Percy Maxim the electric vehicle manufacturing department was spun off as an independent business to become the Columbia Automobile Company.
In 1901 Pope reentered the motor vehicle manufacturing business with the first of a string of enterprises that included Pope-Hartford, Pope-Robinson, Pope-Toledo, Pope-Tribune and Pope-Waverly.
In 1909 the 4 cylinder 40 hp Pope Hartford Public Service Wagon was marketed as a vehicle suitable for Fire Chiefs and Law Enforcement patrols.
That same year Jack Flemming drove one to a one lap victory in the 254 mile Oakland Portola Road road race in California, in front of an estimated 300,000 spectators spread along the 21 mile track, at a record road race speed of 64.51 mph, faster than the Vanderbuilt Cup races in which both Pope Hartford and Pope Toledo models took part.
Thereafter the Public Service Wagon model also became known as the Portola Roadster. The 1913 example seen in this photograph, taken by Geoffrey Horton at the 2011 San Francisco Presidio Concours d’Elegance, was restored originally by Elan Frank Tafiaferro and allegedly raced by him in Baja California, Mexico, in the 1950’s.
The cars current owners Bill and Lee Gularte have owned the car since 2000 and undertook their own five year restoration which was rewarded in 2006 with Class honours in the the Hillsborough and Palo Alto Concours d’Elegance and best in show at the Half Moon Concours, the following year “Lil Baja” was best in show at Niello, Serrano and Hillsborough.
Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel Albert Augustus Pope went bankrupt in 1907 and died two years later, the Pope Hartford marque survived until 1914, while Colombia bicycles are still manufactured at One Clycle Street, Westfield Connecticut.
My thanks to Geoffrey Horton for sharing the photograph of the Gularte’s magnificent “Li’l Baja”.
Thanks for joining me on this “Li’l Baja” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me for Ferrari Friday tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !