Museum Gifted a 1909 Model 24-R Pierce-Arrow

1909 Model 24-R Pierce-Arrow

The Museum was recently gifted a 1909 Model 24-R Pierce-Arrow, from the original purchaser’s family. We are extremely grateful for this donation from Charles “Charlie” Henderson of Amarillo, Texas, the grandson of Jennie Adeline Crocker. Jennie bought the car new for use in the San Francisco area, and left it to Charlie when she passed away in 1974.

This car was purchased from The Mobile Carriage Company of San Francisco for the sum of $3,280, plus $11 for optional rear wheel chains. Although it came with the factory with 26 inch Johnson rims (factory 34 x 4 tire), she soon had it changed to 25 inch Fire‑stone rims. The thought was that the smaller tires would help in climbing the steep San Francisco hills.

Jennie was not a tall person, standing barely five feet. Thus, the Pierce required some slight modifications for her to operate it successfully. First, four inch blocks of wood were attached to the pedals, so her short legs could reach them. This resulted in virtually no wear being evident on the pedals.  There was also a floor mounted horn bulb, but that had to be relocated to the side of the body so she could operate it. She did enjoy driving the Pierce, and particularly “motoring” – as she called it – at speed.   She soon became friends with numerous motorcycle police who observed her habit of ignoring speed limits, and paid numerous speeding tickets.

As delivered from the factory, a 24-R runabout has a single rear seat. When Jennie married in 1912, she had the car modified with two rear seats. This enabled the newlyweds, and her two stepchildren, to ride together. Though the family bought other, larger, Pierce-Arrows during this time period, she kept the Model 24 to use as her personal car in and around San Francisco and for occasional country excursions.  She apparently liked the smaller size and agility in the hilly area.  It remained in the family, and though it fell into some disrepair, it was completely restored in the early 1960’s by Joe Morris in Los Altos, California. It was taken to Pebble Beach in 1962 and took first in class, and the restoration has held up well over the years.

The Model 24 was the only four cylinder Pierce offered in 1909 and would be the last year Pierce ever offered a production car with a four cylinder power plant. It was thus the smallest offering in the Pierce catalog that year, riding on a 111 1/2 inch wheelbase. Even with the smaller engine, performance was exceptional as “bodies were made almost altogether of cast aluminum, … we have used this metal for this purpose for the past six years, proving this to be altogether superior to wood or sheet metal” the 1909 Model 24 Owner’s Manual states. All seats, on both runabouts and….touring cars, are of the individual type”. The transmission “is of the selective type, with four forward speeds and reverse, the direct drive being on the fourth speed”.  

Of the approximately one hundred 1909 24 horsepower Pierce-Arrows built, only a handful remain today. We are very fortunate to not only have this car as part of our Museum collection, but also to have a history of the runabout and owner since new.