The CSI (Cup Scene Investigation) Team of VanderbiltCupRaces.com has been asked to estimate the number of people who actually attended the six Vanderbilt Cup Races held on Long Island. First up, the 1904 Vanderbilt Cup Race held on a 30.24-mile triangular course in Nassau County and Queens.
Attendance estimates for America’s first international road race ranged from 15,000 to 50,000 people, depending on the source. In an article for the October 13, 1904 edition of Motoring and Boating, William K. Vanderbilt, Jr. wrote, “I traveled the course twice and judge there must have been over 50,000 people standing at the roadside.”
Motor Age acknowledged the wide range of estimates. “Some place it as low as 15,000, estimating the spectators as low as 500 per mile of the circuit. A program man, who sees big crowds and made a circuit of the course that day, puts the number at 50,000, declaring there was hardly a break in the line of spectators and that at each of the controls and towns were crowds numbering up in the thousands.”
Insight into the actual attendance can be gained form the hundreds of photographs taken over the 30.24-mile course that appear on VanderbiltCupRaces.com . The highest concentation of spectators were at the Westbury start-finish line and grandstand, the Hicksville and Hempstead controls, and turns in Jericho and Queens.
The total attendance for the 1904 race is further clouded by the fact that it took over seven hours to run, so it is safe to assume that many people came and left throughout the day. Accordingly, as documented on VanderbiltCupRaces.com, a reasonable estimate of the number of people who saw a portion of the 1904 race is between 17,000 and 25,000.