Scope and Content
Title: L.L. Whitman correspondence
Collection Number: mssHM 81903-82022
Whitman, Lester L. (Lester Lee), 1861-1932
121 items in 3 boxes
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
The Huntington Library
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, California 91108
Phone: (626) 405-2203
Fax: (626) 449-5720
Abstract: This collection consists of letters from L.L. Whitman and his wife to his mother R.J. Whitman, in South Paris, Maine.
Language of Material: The records are in English.
Collection is open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information,
please go to following
The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material,
nor does it charge fees for such activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and
obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.
[Identification of item], L.L. Whitman correspondence, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.
Purchased from DeWolfe and Wood, February 2015.
Lester L. (Lester Lee) Whitman was born in 1861. He was a well-known transcontinentalist. Whitman made several cross country
automobile trips in a Franklin, a Reo, and an Oldsmobile. In Pasadena, California, he owned an automobile manufacturing shop.
He held several automobile records including San Francisco, California to New York City in 15 days 2 hours and 12 minutes
in 1906. He also made the ascent to Mount Wilson in his 1907 Franklin and said, "Not for five hundred dollars would I make
the trip again."
Scope and Content
The Whitman correspondence begins on May 28, 1903 in Pasadena, California. Whitman writes to his mother about a potential
automobile trip from San Francisco, California to New York and introduces her to his driving partner, E.I. Hammond. The duo
will be trailing several hundred miles behind E.T. Fetch and M.C. Krarup, another pair on their way to New York. Whitman writes
that he has more faith in his 4.5-horsepower Oldsmobile than the 1903 Packard, which Fetch is driving. Postcards and letters
concerning his trip east are sent from various locations including Lovelock and Elko, Nevada, Ogden, Utah, Rawlins, Wyoming,
and Elwood, Nebraska. On the road, Whitman and Hammond face mechanical issues, rugged roads, and harsh weather conditions.
In one letter, Whitman writes about frightening a lone Indian to death when they approached him in their "machine." In another
event, they recruited the help of two cowboys, who used "their lassos to pull us up a bank some 15ft high..." (July 20, 1903).
When driving through the country side, the undeveloped roads prove to be difficult: "The country is all mud, terrible. We
can make but little progress. This mud is the black adobe like lard and dries hard as flint" (Aug. 13, 1903). In Detroit,
Michigan, Whitman meets Ransom E. Olds and appears to be an honored guest at an automobile race with 10,000 people in attendance.
Whitman speaks too soon when he writes "I don't want any more endurance runs..." because he dashes across the continent again
in 1904, 1906, and 1910 at record-setting rates, which include breaking Fetch's record. Whitman reflects that his automobile
trip "helps to season and spice the short life we stay on this earth" (Oct. 18, 1903).
The correspondence resumes in June 1904 in Syracuse, New York. Whitman appears to be preparing for his next transcontinental
trip with Charles S. Carris. Whitman and Carris left San Francisco, Californ ia on August 1, 1904 and arrived in New York
City 33 days later on September 3, 1904. Whitman writes, "I am well and hearty- and have in my pocket a check for $1,200 –
for my labor, pretty good eh?" (September 3, 1904).
After a brief vacation on the east coast, Whitman and his wife arrive home in Pasadena, California on November 13, 1904. At
this point in time, the letters mainly concern family, friends, social life, and updates on Whitman's business as a car manufacturer
with his partner W.G. Hansen. Concerning car sales, Whitman jokes: "If I can't sell them we can run them into the ocean" (July
11, 1909). There are a number of letters from Syracuse, New York as Whitman was offered a position with H.H. Franklin Mfg.
Co. after his trip; however, he did not remain with the company for very long. In late 1910 and early 1911, Whitman and W.T.
Harrington opened a garage selling automobiles and supplies in Pasadena, California. Unfortunately, business was "rotten"
and the garage was bought out in late February. Besides occupying himself in the automobile industry, Whitman writes often
about his vegetable garden, trapping gophers, and his health. He suffered from asthma, frequent headaches, and rheumatism.
Thus, there are several letters from hot springs in San Jacinto, California, which he calls a "stinking place."
Much of the correspondence from Pasadena, California consists of letters from Whitman and his wife Sophia in the same envelope.
Occasionally, there are letters addressed to an "Elizabeth," possibly a relative in South Paris, Maine. Some of the letters
include dried pressed flowers. There are also clippings related to Whitman's travels from the Lewiston Saturday Journal and
Pacific Automobiling in 1904. There are two pamphlets that Whitman wrote about his cross country trips:
From Coast to Coast in a Motor-Car (1905) and
Coast to Coast in a REO (1910). Note:
Coast to Coast in a REO was transferred to the Rare Books Department in May 2015. The call number is RB 645458. Lastly, there is one photograph from
Whitman's transcontinental trip in 1910.
This collection is arranged chronologically.
Carris, Charles S.
Whitman, Lester L. (Lester Lee), 1861-1932
Hammond, Eugene I. (Eugene Irish), 1880-1948
Reo Motor Car Company
Automobile industry and trade
Automobile supplies industry
Hot springs--California--San Jacinto
California--Description and travel
Pasadena--Social life and customs
San Gabriel Mountains (Calif.)--Description and travel
San Gabriel River Valley (Calif.)
United States--Description and travel
Clippings (information artifacts)