Fatty Arbuckle’s 1919 Series 51 roadster

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    I was looking for Fatty Arbuckle’s 1919 Series 51 roadster in recent Rosters but do not see it – would anyone know where it might be? Googling indicates confusion with his famous Don Lee 66HP touring car of the same time. So, I also wonder if the roadster was his Pierce driver while Don Lee created the special touring car.

    The 1921 California registration records list the roadster at 649 West Adams St. in Los Angeles, with Car Number 513249. Whether the roadster had a factory body or coachbuilder one is not part of the record. I discovered the car’s existence in a World War II newspaper story about a Seattle collector’s museum, so like to think that situation helped the Pierce survive the war.

    I’m hoping someone knows more.

    All the best from here





    That serial number is not listed in the PAS database nor in Bernie Weis’ files, so no help there. Hopefully somebody in the group knows something about it.



    Dave –

    Thanks for checking. I have not found the name of the Seattle collection, or if it was open to the public, etc. The owner’s last name was Trudeau, which search engines only seem to know as the Canadian prime minister – continuing the mystery.

    If ever discovered in photos or in person,  it will be interesting to compare its details with his Don Lee-bodied touring car.





    You might check with the LeMay collection in Tacoma. There are two LeMays,  the original LeMay collection, and the newer LeMay, Americas Car Collection. I would try the original, on the Marimont campus first. Either may have some knowledge of an earlier Seattle collection. Harold LeMay had 1000s of cars.


    To bring everyone up to date, I’ve since followed up contacting both the LeMay museum and the Seattle area historical society, without any results. But, I did find a photo of the roadster online with Fatty. It can be found querying Google (I would post it here but am not sure of the image rights).



    649 West Adams Boulevard

    Built in 1904 by Lieutenant (U.S.N.) and Mrs. Randolph Huntington Miner, who would be moving from 2301 Scarff Street nearby
    Architects: Hunt & Eager (Sumner Hunt and Wesley Eager), who took bids from contractors in August 1904
    In 1910, the Miners had contractor Elmer E. Harriman make alterations to the entrance and porte-cochère and to replace the concrete driveway with paving brick (building permit issued to Harriman by the Department of Buildings on September 20, 1910)
    A permit for the replacement of the garage roof was issued to Randolph Miner on October 2, 1913
    The Miners, stationed in San Francisco from the summer of 1917—he was by now a captain in the navy—leased 649 West Adams, furnished, to Theda Bara (“famous vampire of the motion picture world”) in February 1918; she had previously taken a short rental at 2445 South Western Avenue, a mile and a quarter to the west. The Los Angeles Times reported that the actress was to move into 649 for an “indefinite period” on the 18th of the month. Miss Bara left the house in the early fall, after which the house was robbed sometime during the first days of October. Captain and Mrs. Miner were at this time moving from San Francisco to Washington; according to the Los Angeles Herald of November 11, 1918, they were hoping for a diplomatic posting, possibly to Italy, after the Armistice. While the Miners, who were nothing if not socially ambitious, told friends that they did not intend to return to Los Angeles to live, they hedged their bets by holding on to 649 West Adams for the time being. Despite subsequent backtracking by the couple, as quoted in the Herald on January 21, 1919 (“CAPTAIN MINER AND WIFE TO RE-OPEN L.A. MANSION”), they remained in Washington, despite no glamorous international assignment seeming to be forthcoming from the Wilson administration. On May 5, 1919, the Herald reported that 649 and its furnishings had been leased again, for a period of nine months, to screen comedian Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, who brought along 5,000 phonograph records and an extensive collection of wines and liquors. The Volstead Act became law on October 28, with Prohibition scheduled to begin on January 17, 1920; it was reported by the Herald on January 12 that when Federal authorities refused to let Arbuckle move his basement stash to another location, the star, apparently making an offer to the Miners they couldn’t refuse—quoted as $30,000—bought the house outright.

    An alteration permit to enlarge a bathroom by incorporating a closet was issued to Arbuckle by the Department of Buildings on February 28, 1920, apparently before the actual closing; on April 7, apparently after the act of sale, Arbuckle was issued a permit to build a new garage, which he had hired architect Daniel C. Messinger to design
    Neighbors of Arbuckle, including Chester Place control freak Edward L. Doheny (no doubt at the behest of his his wife Estelle, who was in the midst of her impressive rise from telephone operator to ersatz countess), soon became unhappy with the raucous parties thrown by their new neighbor. Heretofore, Los Angeles burghers had tolerated Hollywood with equanimity, even amusement; Arbuckle’s Adams Street parties were, however, just the beginning of a major social impasse. Fatty’s infamous Labor Day 1921 weekend bacchanal in San Francisco firmly soured local society on film folk as neighbors and, despite Arbuckle’s decisive acquittal on manslaughter charges after three trials, had the same effect on his career in terms of national public perception. Despite major attempts at a comeback, his career remained dead along with the hapless Virginia Rappe
    Reports have it that Minta was supportive of Fatty after his arrest, despite personal estrangement before the scandal and soon after. Arbuckle decided to leave 649 West Adams, or was compelled to do so as part of the complicated real estate dealings of his former business partner, film producer Joe Schenck, who also remained supportive of Arbuckle after the scandal broke.

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