Advertising revenue has always been critical to the success of news outlets, and in the early years of the twentieth century newspapers were the only game in town. With the advent of the automobile came automobile dealers and corresponding secondary parts and accessories markets, and thus was born a new class of advertisers, many of which preferred large display ads. Some papers added entire sections devoted to news of individuals and businesses involved with the new technology, and they routinely did whatever else they could to promote their interests.
Especially popular at the time were long-distance excursions, local events, and races sponsored by newspapers, auto clubs, auto manufacturers, and others (including wealthy individuals) with an interest in the success of the horseless carriage. In fact, the first organized auto race in the nation was the Chicago Times-Herald race of November 1895, in which the winning entry completed a 55-mile course at an average speed of five miles per hour.
Pictured above are Capital-area residents that turned out in their Edwardian-era finery (along with the requisite driving coats and goggles for the gentlemen) on May 24, 1910, for the Washington Times Sociability Auto Run. Based upon the formal dress and name of the event we may conclude that it was more about socializing than motoring, but no doubt the vehicles were put to at least mild tests of performance and endurance in the spirit of this prosperous age.
Flying from each of the cars are pennants provided by the sponsor emblazoned with the name of the event. Also displayed are, of course, District of Columbia and state license plates. Fastened below D.C. porcelain enamel plate no. 2076 appears to be a homemade Maryland plate no. 1310. This was, however, just about the time that uniform, state-supplied plates were being introduced in Maryland. Note also that, like many cars of the era, those pictured are fitted with smooth, treadless tires.