The 1909 | Jenny McClary and Allie Leepson
Jenny McClary and Allie Leepson

What's Up With "1909"?

 
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Year: 1909

The Story Behind Our Name

 

What is the 1909? It's not an address, flight number or secret code...

It's a point in time, one that is synonymous with adventure. It was in 1909 that Alice Huyler Ramsey, then only 22 years old, became the first woman to drive across the United States. She set out to show the appeal of Maxwell cars at a time when roads were still built for horses and maps featured ever-changing landmarks.

Alice, assertive and independent in an era when women were discouraged from getting in the driver's seat, had already proved herself an excellent navigator. So much so that the Maxwell-Briscoe Company had its eyes on Alice after executives caught wind of her expertise in a 200-mile endurance trip to and from Montauk, New York. Alice took to the road with three other female friends for Maxwell's branded journey.

Of the small group, only Alice knew how to drive, and she was prepared for the setbacks she would encounter over the 59-day, 3,800-mile journey. Along the way, Alice changed spark plugs, fixed tire blowouts and ran out of gas in the Midwest. When the transmission needed water, the women used their sterling-silver toiletry holders to slowly gather enough from a nearby ditch. The Maxwell's tires couldn't pass muddy, washed-out terrain, so Alice and her crew slept beside a creek in Iowa until conditions improved. Shelter from the elements wasn't always ideal: she got a case of bedbugs from a Wyoming hotel.

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Of the entire journey, only 152 miles were paved. Alice replaced 11 tires and fixed a broken brake pedal, becoming an expert on the mechanics of the Maxwell at a time when the automotive industry was young. The Nebraska portion of the road trip included encountering a manhunt for a killer; and in Nevada, a group of Native Americans surrounded them with bows and arrows ready to go.

After her momentous journey, Alice's sense of adventure was far from quenched. The 1909 trip was just the first of dozens of cross-country rides she took in subsequent decades.

100 years later, we like to think we are following in Alice’s footsteps as we embark on adventure to support the brands we love with bold stories and unforgettable images.

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