Harold Reynolds “Harry” Peterson

1893 – 1945

 

 

            Harry Peterson was born on June 2, 1893 at Knoxville in Knox County, Illinois.  He was the third of four children born to Felix Harper “Frank” Peterson (1845-1927) and Emma Jane (Reynolds) Peterson (1857-1936).  He moved with his family from Illinois to Pleasant Valley Township in rural Cowley County, Kansas after 1900 but before 1905.  The family moved on to Wichita, Kansas shortly after that where Harry found work as an automobile mechanic.

            On July 5, 1914 and while residing for a few months in Terre Haute, Indiana, Harry was knocked unconscious and received several painful cuts and bruises when a motorcycle he was riding struck a stone in the road causing him to tumble from the bike.

            Harry was still residing with his parents in Wichita, Kansas in 1915.

            By 1917, Harry was stationed at Ft. Omaha near Omaha, Nebraska and was one of 91 men (seven from Wichita) serving in Company A of the balloon division of the U. S. Aviation Service.  In July of that year, his division shipped out for the war in France where he remained throughout most of 1918.

            In December of 1920, Harry was charged with assaulting Wichita garage owner William C. Burnham.  The judge said that he wished he could fine both participants in what turned out to be a fight but, since he did not have that authority, he dismissed the charges with a reprimand for both men for unseemly conduct.

In 1921, Harry formed a business partnership with William Henry “Bill” Lassen (1897-1945) that included lesser stake holders Hart Huraine Bowman (1893-1972) and Bill Lassen’s younger brother, Aldrich Henry “Buster” Lassen (1900-1924), to build the 1½ mile dirt Meridian Speedway north of Pawnee Street on South Meridian Street in Wichita, Kansas.  That venture was not a financial success and the speedway closed after its final event in July of 1923.  The facility was dismantled in December of that year.

Harry’s first known experience with racing automobiles came as a driver in July of 1910:

 

 

July, 1910 – Unknown dirt oval in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Car:  Peterson drove a Crawford automobile in races in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma but it has yet to be learned how he finished there or who won any of those races.  The car he drove was owned by John Henry “Jack” Baldauf (1875-1956) who, with partner John S. Liggett (1857-1923), owned Regal Auto Company which was a dealership for Crawford and Regal automobiles in Wichita, Kansas.

                                                                  

July 4, 1911 – ½ mile dirt oval – West Side Racetrack in Wichita, Kansas

Car:  Crawford owned by John Henry “Jack” Baldauf of Wichita, Kansas

Finish:  Peterson won the 10-lap Free-for-All race in 6 minutes, 17.0 seconds over Glenn M. Breed who was driving a Buick Model 17, and _____ Heller who was driving a Moon.  Peterson ran most of this race in third place, just moving into second place near the end.  This race was run during a blinding sand storm.  Given the conditions, Breed told a newspaper reporter that he was surprised that he had done as well as he had.  Peterson had Racine brand tires on this car when he won this race.

Feature race winner:  Harold R. “Harry” Peterson of Wichita, Kansas

 

November 11, 1911 – ½ mile dirt oval – Pratt County Fairgrounds in Pratt, Kansas

Car:  Crawford owned by John Henry “Jack” Baldauf of Wichita, Kansas

Finish:  700 people saw these races sponsored by the Wichita Motor Club.  Peterson won the second 5-mile race driving Jack Baldauf’s Crawford.  He was followed across the finish line by Glenn M. Breed in second place in his own 1909 Buick Model 17.

 

June 20, 1915 – ½ mile dirt oval – Butler County Fairgrounds at El Dorado, Kansas

These races were promoted by Wilbur Beaumont

Car:  24 H.P. Buick

Finish:  Peterson won the 2-lap Free-for-All race over Billie Hedrick, Max Wilson, and “Mr. Anderson” in 1:30.0.

            Peterson finished second in the 6-lap Free-for-All behind Billie Hedrick who was driving a Model 10 Buick.  Following Peterson were Max Wilson and “Mr. Anderson”.

            Peterson dropped out of the 10-lap feature race when his Buick broke a steering arm and he nearly turned over.

Feature race winner:  Max Wilson of Wichita, Kansas who was driving a Ford.

 

July 4, 1921 – ½ mile dirt oval – West Side Racetrack in Wichita, Kansas

Car:  His own Harroun special #7

Finish:  Peterson was third fastest in time trials turning one lap in 38.5 seconds behind quick-timer Johnny Lee of Wichita in a Dodge and James I. “Toots” Higgins of Newton, Kansas in an Essex.  Billie Hedrick finished 4th in that event in a Mercer with a time of 39.0 seconds.

 In the first 4-car heat race, Peterson crashed the Harroun special through the fence at the first turn tearing out 50 feet of the rail and posts.  The car veered back across the racetrack with its radiator smashed and front axle bent but Peterson was uninjured.  The car had to be withdrawn from the remainder of the races.

Feature race winner:  Due to a shortage of both entries and paying spectators, no feature race was run.

 

September 8, 1921 – ½ mile dirt oval – Athletic Park in Newton, Kansas

Car:  Lassen special 16-valve Dodge owned by William Henry “Bill” Lassen of Wichita, Kansas

Finish:  Peterson turned in the fastest time in time trials running two laps of the racetrack in 1:10.0 over Bill Bryant, James I. “Toots” Higgins, Merle Warren, and J. F. Jones before a crowd of 2,000 people.

             Peterson won the first heat race over James I. “Toots” Higgins and Bill Bryant.  Peterson’s time for the 4-laps was 2:25.0.

             Peterson won the 6-lap Free-for-All in 3:40.0.  Merle Warren was second, James I. “Toots” Higgins finished third and J. F. Jones finished fourth.

             Peterson won the second heat race in 2:25.0 over James I. “Toots” Higgins and Bill Bryant.

             Peterson won the third heat race in 2:31.0 over Bill Bryant and James I. “Toots” Higgins.

Peterson won the 30-lap Free-for-All in 18:00.0.  Bill Bryant finished in second place and James I. “Toots” Higgins finished third J. F. Jones lost a wheel and dropped out while running in fourth place and Merle Warren dropped out while running in fifth place.

            Feature race winner:  Harold R. Peterson driving a Lassen special Dodge.

 

October 3, 1921 – 1½ mile dirt – Meridian Speedway in Wichita, Kansas

Car:  Lassen special 16-valve Dodge owned by William Henry “Bill” Lassen of Wichita, Kansas

Finish:  Results of these races have yet to be located.

 

October 5, 1921 – 1½ mile dirt – Meridian Speedway in Wichita, Kansas

Car:  Lassen special 16-valve Dodge owned by William Henry “Bill” Lassen of Wichita, Kansas

Finish:  Peterson was driving one of the 15 cars that started this race but his’s mount broke a steering arm early in the 40-lap (60-mile) event and crashed or, as stated in the Wichita Eagle newspaper, “was thrown off the track.”

            Feature race winner:  Johnnie Mais who was driving a Dodge special

 

March 31, 1922 – ½ mile dirt oval – Anthony Downs at Anthony, Kansas

Car:  Lassen special 16-valve Dodge #4 owned by William Henry “Bill” Lassen of Wichita, Kansas.

Finish:  Peterson turned in the 3rd fastest time in time trials behind Johnnie Mais of Salina, Kansas and Johnny Lee of Wichita, Kansas.  All three of these drivers were driving Dodges.

Peterson finished 2nd in the first 5-mile heat race.  That race was won by Johnny Lee.  The advertised purse for second place in this race was $50 but race promoter F. R. Dunlavy only paid Peterson $25.

            Peterson finished 2nd in the second 5-mile heat race.  That race was won by Johnnie Mais who was driving his own Dodge special.  The advertised purse for second place in this race was $50 but race promoter F. R. Dunlavy only paid Peterson $25.

Feature race winner:  Johnnie Mais of Salina, Kansas although Mais was claiming that Indianapolis, Indiana was his home at the time.

 

April 1, 1922 – ½ mile dirt oval – Anthony Downs at Anthony, Kansas

Car:  Lassen special 16-valve Dodge #4 owned by William Henry “Bill” Lassen of Wichita, Kansas

The races on this date were canceled due to poor attendance the preceding afternoon as there had only been between 1,200 and 1,500 spectators in the grandstands that afternoon.

 

September 4, 1922 – 1½ mile dirt – Meridian Speedway in Wichita, Kansas

Car:  Lassen special 16-valve Dodge owned by William Henry “Bill” Lassen of Wichita, Kansas

Finish:  Peterson’s name does not appear in the results of these races.

            Feature race winner:  Johnnie Mais of Salina, Kansas who was driving a 16-valve Dodge special

 

           

            It is unclear just where Harry Peterson was between 1922 and 1935.  A search of 1930 U. S. census records does turn up a Harold Peterson, who was born in Illinois around the right time, who was serving time in the Illinois State Penitentiary in 1930.  What little is known about that Harold Peterson does fit this Harold Peterson to a “T” but, as of yet, the evidence is not conclusive.  We do know that one of Harold Peterson’s business partners, Hart H. Bowman, was involved in a large auto theft ring around that time but that does not mean that Harold was involved in it.

By 1935, Harry Peterson was residing in rural Maricopa County, Arizona where he was working as a machinist and auto mechanic.  He lived in Maricopa County at least six years before moving to Weatherford, Texas.

Harry died on November 14, 1945 at Santo in Palo Pinto County, Texas where he had been living with a friend and said he had been unemployed for the last several years.  He is buried beside his parents in Maple Grove Cemetery in Wichita, Kansas.  His death certificate lists the primary cause “cardiac and edema dropsy” and a contributing cause was a toxic goiter.