Arthur Swain, Jr. a.k.a. Charles William “Will” Swain
1884 - 1960
Arthur Swain, Jr. was born September 21, 1884* on a farm in Richland Township which is a few miles east of the town of Rock in Cowley County, Kansas. He was the seventh of eleven children born to Arthur Swain (1846-1920) and his wife, Panola E. “Nola” (Morgan) Swain (1852-1921).
In February of 1886, 17-month-old Swain was at his parent’s home six miles northeast of Winfield, Kansas when he “was severely burned about his face by his apron taking fire from the hot stove.” The accident left him with permanent disfiguring scars about his face.
Sometime after 1900, Swain moved to New York City where he took a job with the Sterns-Knight Automobile Company. It was while working there that his love for the automobile manifested as he learned the mechanical workings of the machines. It was also while working in New York City that his sister, Nola Ruth Swain (1889-1974), introduced him to his future wife, Marie Louise Leonard (1894-1983) who was originally from Kansas City, Missouri. The ladies were co-workers at the Charles H. Elliott Company which was an engraving company in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
By the time Swain returned to Kansas in 1906, his father had become heavily involved in local politics and that is believed to have been the primary reason that Arthur, Jr. changed his name. Whatever the reason, Swain took a bookkeeping job for the Standard Livestock Commission Company in Wichita using the name Charles William “Will” Swain. Then, as “Will Swain”, he opened his own Swain Automobile Co. in Wichita in 1908 as an agency for Sterns-Knight automobiles.
Records show that he was fined $75 for speeding in police court in July of 1909. In 1910, he was residing in the Keene Hotel and was proprietor of the Swain Automobile Co. located at 201 N. Water St. By 1912, Swain had moved his residence to 142 N. Emporia St. and his business to 231 S. Topeka St. in Wichita. The next year, he resided at 138 N. Lawrence Ave. (now known as Broadway St.) in Wichita. In 1914 and 1915, the Swain Automobile Co. was a Mercer Automobile distributor and was located at 236 N. Market St. From 1916 to 1920, his now Swain Motor Co. was located at 115 N. Lawrence Ave. in Wichita.
The following list of auto races that Will Swain competed in is incomplete. These were all contested on half-mile dirt oval racetracks:
Swain drove a Cole 30 Flyer
Swain collected $100 from the afternoon’s purse when he won the five-car race of automobiles with engines not exceeding 30 h.p. Swan covered the distance in six minutes, 54.0 seconds. Second place finisher, Marvin Light, who was driving a Crawford, may have been a little faster but ignition problems kept him from challenging Swain for the victory.
Swain finished first in a 10-lap match race against Carl E. Evans who was driving an Auburn 40. This race was started with the two cars nose-to-tail and Evans in the lead. Swain passed for the lead shortly before the engine in Evans’ Auburn died so Swain completed the distance alone in six minutes, 59.0 seconds.
Eight cars started the final race of the day which was a ten-lap Free-for-all. “In the third mile,” Swain and Marvin Light were fighting for the inside position on the racetrack when Swain, who was slightly in the lead, lost control of his skidding Cole 30 Flyer and crashed into the fence on the outside edge of the racetrack. The Cole 30 Flyer was considerably damaged but Swain had dropped down into the body of the car and escaped unhurt. The day after Evans' victory in this race, the local Auburn automobile dealer touted the victory in a newspaper ad saying that you too could own a new Auburn for only $1,650.
Swain had two automobiles entered for him in these races. One was a Buick Model 18 and the other a Stearns 60. Both cars were owned by Wichita druggist, Frank John Garrety (1885-1968).
Swain drove the Buick Model 18 and finished third in a four-car, ten-lap race for stock automobiles valued up to $1,000. Glenn Breed won that race in a Buick Model 10 owned by L. E. Hall and was followed in second place by George C. Wiles of Hutchinson, Kansas in an E.M.F. 30 that was owned by the Eaton-Wiles Automobile Co. of Hutchinson. That race paid a total purse of $200.
Swain drove the Buick Model 18 to victory in a twenty-lap race for stock automobiles valued up to $1,000. In doing so, he set a new track record for the distance of fourteen minutes, 9.5 seconds as he pulled away to a comfortable lead and was never headed in this race that paid a total purse of $250. Swain’s record was broken by Glenn Breed later that day with a time for that distance of thirteen minutes, 45.5 seconds.
Swain finished third in a twenty-lap Free-for-All race for stock automobiles with no value restrictions. Glenn Breed won that race in a Buick Model 16 owned by the Bushton (Kansas) Auto Co. He was followed in second place by William A. “Will” Burke driving a Hudson 20 owned by the Hutchinson Motor Co. That race paid a total purse of $500.
Swain drove a Sterns–Knight owned by Frank John Garrety
Although entered, Swain’s name does not appear in published results of these races.
Swain drove a National owned by E. M. Ladley** of Wichita, Kansas who had only recently purchased the car from Walter Krause of the Jackson Automobile Company in Wichita, Kansas.
Swain dropped out of the five-car, twenty-lap race with “faulty water and oil circulation.” The race was won by Sig Haugdahl of Albert Lea, Minnesota who was driving a Mercer Raceabout.
Although the National that Swain drove was equipped with two seats, Swain refused to allow a “mechanican” to accompany him in these races as he did not want to expose another person to the risks of racing.
May 19, 1915 – Salina Fairgrounds at Salina, Kansas
Swain entered a National owned by E. M. Ladley** of Wichita, Kansas.
These races were canceled due to rain.
Swain housed both Johnny Mais’ Mais special and Louis LeCocq’s Mercer racing cars in his garage in downtown Wichita while they were in town to compete in the I.M.C.A. sanctioned races run at the West Side Racetrack on July 4, 1916.
Swain drove a Mercer touring car
Swain dropped out of this four-car race for stock cars having completed only seven of the ten scheduled laps. He was credited for third place behind winner Bill Hendricks of Wichita in a Mercer roadster and Elmer J. Neggy (1891-1985) of Hutchinson who was driving a five-passenger Essex. The total posted purse for this race was $300.
Will Swain and Marie Louise Leonard were married on December 20, 1919 at his parents’ home which was now in Winfield, Kansas.
Swain’s father passed away in 1920 and his mother’s obituary was published in the Winfield (Kansas) Daily Free Press on October 5, 1921. According to that obituary, Will Swain was residing at Wilmot in Cowley County, Kansas when his mother passed away.
With the death of his parents and after two decades as Charles William “Will” Swain, Will went back to using his given name, Arthur Swain, Jr., again.
After their marriage, Arthur Swain, Jr. and his wife made their home at Rock in Cowley County, Kansas. By 1925, Arthur had opened an automobile repair business at 100 East Kansas Avenue in Arkansas City, Kansas which was some 20 miles from their home so it was not long before the couple moved to a home located in front of his garage in Arkansas City.
Sometime before February of 1942, Arthur was legally declared “an incompetent person.” Marie Swain was named as Arthur, Jr.’s legal guardian and she went to work as a caseworker at the County Welfare Office in Arkansas City. Arthur, Jr. and Marie separated around 1951 and she moved to another house in Arkansas City. Although Arthur was still living, Marie described herself in records as a widow. Arthur, Jr. continued to live a hermit’s lifestyle in their home on East Kansas Avenue and, by 1959, his house had become very rundown from neglect. There was also so much old furniture stacked on the front porch that entry had to be made through a different door.
Arthur Swain, Jr. passed away in Memorial Hospital in Arkansas City, Kansas on December 12, 1960. After a private funeral, his remains were cremated.
Marie Swain passed away in 1983 and is buried in Hope Cemetery southwest of Arkansas City.
If you know anything more about Charles William Swain, Arthur Swain, Jr., or his involvement in the sport of auto racing, please contact Bob Lawrence at: sprintguy @ cox.net
Autograph Signed in 1917
Autograph Signed in 1942
* Will Swain’s date of birth is listed as September 21, 1881 on his World War I draft registration but that is incorrect as he had a full brother, George Arthur Swain, who was born on October 22, 1881. All other sources located to date state that the date of birth for both Will Swain and Arthur Swain, Jr. was September 21, 1884.
** Although one source does list E. M. Ladley of Wichita, Kansas as the owner of the National driven by Will Swain; the car owner was more likely Leslie E. Ladley.