Frank Croker : 1878-1905

Frank Croker May Die; Auto Plunged Into Sea

Going Ninety Miles an Hour, Hit Motor Cyclist

His Chauffer Was Killed

Rider Turned Into His Path on Beach Near Ormond—Was Practicing for Auto Races This Week

ORMOND, Fla., Jan. 21--While Frank Croker, son of Richard Croker, was driving is racing automobile on the beach here at the rate of ninety miles an hour the machine struck a motor cycle ridden by H. F. Stanley and plunged into the sea, turning over two or three times. Mr. Croker's right leg was broken, his left arm crushed, and two ribs fractured. The doctors say that while his injuries are very serious, he will probably recover. Alexander Raoul, his mechanic, was instantly killed. Stanley had a leg broken and sustained other injuries.

Mr. Croker, who has been here several days, brought with him the big Simplex automobile, which he ran at the Vanderbilt Cup race on Long Island last Fall. Each day he has been testing the machine, speeding it up and down the beach. To-day he was out early and drove the machine several hours. Most of these time tests were opposite Ormond, where the beach was hard and smooth.

It was nearly 4 o'clock when Mr. Croker decided to take one more spin before winding up the day's sport. Laughing and joking with friends, he climbed into the big car and started toward Daytona, taking with him his chauffeur. Coming back from Daytona half an hour later, and when about half a mile below the Inn, he saw a bicyclist a few hundred yards ahead traveling in the same direction. Mr. Croker at that time was traveling at the rate of a mile in forty seconds.

Hit Motorcycle

The bicyclist who was on a motorcycle, evidently did not hear the automobile coming, and, turning to avoid a wet spot in the beach, ran directly in Mr. Croker's path. Notwithstanding the latter's efforts, he was unable to clear the bicyclist entirely, and the hub of the auto struck the pedal of the bicyclist and the leg of the rider.

The bicyclist was shot off into the sea the impact breaking his leg and cutting off the pedal of the bicycle as cleanly as if with an axe. Mr. Croker's machine was going at such a rate that the sudden turn ripped off the great tire and the auto for a few seconds was beyond the driver's control.

Before Mr. Croker could recover, the machine had plunged into the ocean where the two opposite wheels sunk in the soft sand and the automobile upset, rolling over and over. Mr. Croker and his chauffeur were thrown out and struck by the machine as it upset.

There were few spectators near the spot at the time, but help came and the three injured men were picked up. it was found that the chauffeur was dead, his skull being fractured and a number of bones broken. Mr. Croker was unconscious and was breathing faintly. He was removed to the Hotel Ormond. In addition to the injuries mentioned his whole body was a mass of bruises and contusions. The physicians cannot tell whether there are serious internal injuries. If possible, he will be taken to New York to receive hospital treatment.

The Dead Chauffer

Alexander Raoul, the dead chauffeur, was a married man and a father of two children. he resided in New York and had a position with Smith & Mabley, the makers of the automobile which Mr. Croker drove. He was about forty tears old and a fine mechanic.

The injured bicyclist has been boarding at the Ross cottage for several weeks and is said to be related to F. E. Stanley, the builder of the Stanley steam automobiles. Mr. Croker's mother and sister are said to be on their way here from a South Carolina resort and are due to arrive tomorrow.

Mr. Croker late in the evening is reported as getting along as well as could be expected, having rallied from the shock and subsequent operation satisfactorily.

*  *  *

Frank Croker became prominent as a racing automobilist with the running of the Vanderbilt Cup race on Long Island last October. He had before then owned motor cars, but with his entry of a seventy-five horse power American machine in that event he took rank at once among the wealthy young men who are prominent at nearly all big race meets. Mr. Croker remained in the Vanderbilt race until the contest was called off, and although his machine met with several reverses, he refused to give up and earned high favor from veteran automobilists for his ability in handling a high-powered car at high speed.

With improvements to his machine, which were made in this city, Mr. Croker was a leading contestant in the last track races of the season held on the Empire City track on Election Day, and at that time he established new amateur records for all distances from one to twelve miles.

He still further showed his enthusiasm for motor-driven conveyances by purchasing a fast autoboat, which he named the XPDNC, and in the last motorboat race of the season he established a remarkable record for speed by running the boat from the dock of the Columbia Yacht Club, foot of West Eighty-sixth Street, to Poughkeepsie and back, a total of 136 miles, at an average of 26.29 miles per hour, the best speed attained by a motorboat in this country for a long distance. This was the longest motorboat race that was ever held in America. Mr. Croker had his autoboat shipped to Palm Beach several days ago, where it was his intention to compete in the motorboat races to be held during the first week in February, immediately following the Ormond Beach races.

Mr. Croker's racing automobile was made at the shops of the Smith & Mabley Company, at the foot of East Eighty-fourth Street. It has been considerably improved since the Vanderbilt race; and was expected to make very fast time. Mr. Croker had entered in fifteen races for Ormond this week, among them being the one-mile international championship, the 100-mile race for the W. K. Vanderbilt Cup, and the one-mile race for amateurs for the trophy given bu Col. L. C. Weir.

(Transcribed from the New York Times, Jan. 22, 1905, p. 1. )

*  *  *

Frank Croker Dead of His Injuries

Accident Which Killed His Mechanic Also Fatal to Him

Machines Awful Plunge

Made Three Complete Revolutions—Croker's Mother and Sister at Ormond—Races Postponed

ORMOND, Fla., Jan. 22---Frank Croker, son of Richard Croker, died at 5 o'clock this morning of the injuries he sustained yesterday afternoon in the automobile accident which instantly killed Alexander Raoul, his mechanic, and severely injured Newton Stanley, a motor cyclist. Although terribly hurt, Mr. Croker rallied well last night, and his physicians expressed strong hopes of his recovery. But a turn for the worse came early this morning, and the young man sank so fast that there was just sufficient time to secure a priest to administer the last rites before the end.

From the first Dr. Parks and Dr. Miller realized that Mr. Croker's injuries were very severe and the shock great. It was evidently from the effect of the tremendous shock that he died. When he was placed in position for examination by the surgeons he asked his friend, William Wallace of Boston, the nature of his injuries. he then asked about his mechanic, and was told that he was more seriously hurt.

The young man was then put under the influence of ether and the broken and splintered bones in the leg and arm were set, his broken ribs were bandaged, and a bad scalp wound was dressed. After the operation the patient seemed to be resting well, but he was in a semi-conscious state. After midnight he became entirely unconscious, and remained so until death.

Mrs. Richard Croker and a daughter arrived here from Jacksonville to-night. They will remain several days, as Mrs. Croker is physically unable to return to New York. J. F. Connelly will leave here at 8:30 in the morning with Frank Croker's body. It will be taken to New York.

Newton Stanley, the motor cyclist, who was struck by Croker's automobile, was taken from the hospital at St. Augustine. Mr. Stanley hs a compound fracture of the left ankle and may be a cripple for life.

An examination of Frank Croker's racer this morning disclosed a most complete wreck. The left front tire is gone and both sides of the front axle between the springs and the hubs are bent and twisted so that both wheels dish out. All of the framework is gone or badly torn and many parts of the engine are broken or twisted.

As to the cause of the terrible accident opinions vary, but to those who witnessed the occurrence it seems to have been solely to the efforts of Mr. Croker to save the life of Newton Stanley.

Young Mr. Stanley, who was riding a motor cycle, was following the water line on the beach. The tide was rising, and Mr. Stanley turned out to avoid a wave which formed a soft, wet spot. This gave the impression that he was rattled. Mr. Croker, coming behind at a forty-second gait in his big Simplex, turned out to avoid Stanley, and them made a quick switch to straighten himself again.

In that switch he made a fatal error, as in the soft sand the strain was too much for one tire, which flew from the rim. The car mounted right up on end, and Raoul was hurled out into space, only to have the car fall on him. This crushed out his life.

The big car made three complete revolutions, jumping higher in the air each time. It finally rolled sideways into the water, where Mr. Croker was found lying beside it.

All of this happened within a quarter of a mile of the Ormond end of the course, and Charles Heineman, the bookmaker, and others rushed to the fallen man. He was tenderly carried from the beach to the hotel, Raoul's body lay on the beach for three hours, covered with a coat, as the Coroner would not allow it to be moved. At the Hotel Ormond Mr. Croker was looked after by Dr. J. Wilson of Boston, a retired physician; Dr. William Miller, Dr. H. H. Seeley, Dr. E. T. Marsh, Dr. P. R. Bennett, and by Edwin Jerome Conley, F. M. Knowles, and others.

To-night steps are being taken to have the beach thoroughly patrolled at dangerous places. Twenty Deputy Sheriffs in autos have been drafted, and all entrances for vehicles to the beach will be guarded. No carriages or bicycles will be admitted.

(Transcribed from the New York Times, Jan. 23, 1905, p. 3. )

*  *  *

Thousands Pay Tribute to Young Frank Croker

Church of St. Ignatius Loyola Crowded at Funeral

Many Are Turned Away

Mayor, Tammany Leaders, and Democratic Members There—Father Thanks Friends

Fully eight thousand persons attended the funeral services of Frank H. Croker yesterday morning at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola, Park Avenue and Eighty-fourth Street, nearly a third of them being unable to gain admission Included in the throng were men prominent in all walks of life. The crowds, both at the Croker home, 5, East Seventy-fourth Street, and at the church, were so great that a large force of policemen was necessary to make a way for the family carriages.

It was after 10 o'clock when the coffin was borne from the house and placed in a hearse which was guarded by a score of policemen. After the hearse came a carriage with four Sisters of Mercy, followed by the members of the Croker family, headed by Richard Croker and his wife. Mrs. Croker leaned heavily on the arm of her husband as he assisted her into the carriage. In the third carriage were Mr. and Mrs. McCann and their son. In the twenty-five other carriages following were the nephews, nieces, relatives, and immediate friends of the family.

For blocks in the vicinity of the church the streets were packed. Waiting in the church when the funeral procession arrived were Mayor McClellan, Borough Presidents Ahearn and Littleton, and many other officials of the City Government. Among others were President John Fox of the Democratic Club, who with Andrew freedman, headed the delegation which included most of the membership of that body

Requiem mass was said by Rev. Neil M. McKinnon, pastor of the church, while Father Pardow preached the funeral sermon. Archbishop Farley gave the final absolution and pronounced the benediction. After the service had begun Fire Chief Croker, who was detained by a fire in the Bronx, hurried in and took his seat with the family

After the services the coffin was borne out of the church through the centre aisle. Only the immediate family and a very few of the most intimate friends of Mr. Croker followed the body to Calvary Cemetery, where it was interred in the family plot. The service at the grave was brief.

Mr. Croker returned to the family home after the burial, and last night his friends said he would remain there the rest of his stay in New York. Mr. Croker for a long time previous to his taking up his residence in England, had made his headquarters at the Democratic Club. In the evening Mr. Croker gave out a short statement.

"It is impossible for me," he said, "owing to the great number to answer individually all the messages of condolence and sympathy, which I have received. I avail myself of the courtesy of the press to make public announcements on behalf of myself and family in this general way, and to thank my friends for their comforting words."

(Transcribed from the New York Times, Feb. 4, 1905, p. 5. )

{It appears that the crush of people were at the funeral more for a demonstration of support for the father that as a demonstration of sorrow for the son. Richard Croker could be identified at the Democratic king-maker during his time as head of the Democratic Club and Tammany Hall. This was a time of vicious political machinations in New York on both sides of the political aisle and Richard Croker had been many times indicted and investigated by the opposition during his political reign. It was not for his health that he chose to reside in England. I would imagine that a similar scene would occur if a young Rockefeller or Kennedy would suffer a similar misfortune - GWC}

[Thanks to Greg Calkins for help in preparing this page]

For other pages featuring Frank Croker please see:

Motor Boat Challenge [1904]
Auto Boat Mile Record
First New York to Poughkeepsie Hudson River Race
Onontio's Mile Record
1904 Racing Season Summary
1904 Harmsworth Trophy
Palm Beach Motor Boat Carnival [1905]
1905 Hudson River Water Carnival

Hydroplane History Home Page
This page was last revised Thursday, April 01, 2010.
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Leslie Field, 1999