Thursday, May 28, 2015

Anita King Reaches New York - over 5,321 miles

Anita King - 1st Woman to Travel Solo Koast to Koast in a Kissel Kar

The first woman to travel alone by automobile - arrived in New York City on October 19, 1915 - 49 days after leaving San Francisco. The October 24th issue of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote:

"Completing one of the most daring undertakings by a woman that the annals of the automobile industry record, Miss Anita King, "The Paramount Girl," who left San Francisco on September 1st last in a KisselKar to drive across the continent, absolutely unescorted by any one, arrived in New York City Tuesday.

Dispatches to the local KisselKar branch received yesterday told of the incident, wires being received both from the New York City branch of the Kissel company and from Miss King. That Miss King's unusual record will stand for some time is not only the opinion of the fair star of the screen, but of hundreds of persons scattered from one end of the country to the other who have watched with considerable interest the progress of the "shadow actress" across the continent in her motor car.

Shortly after Miss King's arrival in old Gotham, the actress, escorted by motorists, sisters and brothers of her profession and "movie" fans by the score, called on Mayor John Purroy Mitchel of New York and delivered to that executive a batch of messages from Mayors of the principal cities of the country through which she had passed, the ones which attracted the most attention being those from Mayor James Rolph, Jr. of San Francisco and Mayor Sebastian of Los Angeles. "There were redeeming features of the journey--many of them--else I never could have held out," Miss King tells the local Kissel branch in her message. "Not once during the entire racking drive did my car fail me and I put it to some terrible tests."

Newspapers Covered Anita King's Journey

Prepared to Go it Alone

Although Anita was prepared to go it alone on her travels, cooking her own meals and camping out on the desert as well as changing tires and repairing her car as needed, she remained unfazed, declaring with confidence: "Why can't women break transcontinental records as well as men? I am out to snatch a few honors as well as to show the men folk the sturdiness of what they call the weaker species when it comes to grit and perseverance. I'll show them, too."

Throughout her journey - Anita made 100 stops at Paramount Movie Theaters along the way and spoke about filmmaking. She was able to drive 100 miles a day - when she hit Nevada - The New York times quoted Aunt Anita in the September 19th paper:

"Leaving Reno on what is known as the Lovelock Road, which is impassable in wet weather, ten miles from Lincoln Highway, I got stuck in the mud. There had been a big cloudburst, but I did not know it, and I worked from 9 o'clock in the morning until 8 o'clock that night shoveling mud.

I got the car out, drove fifty feet, and was stuck again.

It was impossible for me to go on, and I had no food with me as I expected to make Fallon in four hours. I was exhausted so I got blankets out to lie down.

About midnight a mad coyote attacked me, and after a terrible struggle I finally killed him, and knew nothing more until I was picked up by prospectors, who heard the shots of my gun. This was 3:30 A.M., so I must have fought with the coyote for three hours.

The prospectors took me eighteen miles to a station house and gave me food. When I fully recovered I went back and got my car and followed the prospectors to Lovelock. Then I continued on my journey.

The roads were terrible, so hot and dusty, that it took me nine hours to drive 80 and a half miles to Winnemucca."

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Speeding Sweethearts of the Silent Screen

Anita's First Stretch of Her Journey

Anita's first stretch of her journey was traveling from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 17 hours and 55 minutes. On her Koast to Koast trip Anita will be welcomed by Kissel Kar owners with Kissel Kar branches along the way.

In the August 29, 1915 issue of the San Francisco Examiner -

"The feat accomplished by Miss Anita King, the Paramount-Lasky girl, in driving to San Francisco from Los Angeles in the notable time of 17 hours and 55 minutes last week is to be followed this week by the start of a much more notable effort, the crossing of the continent in three weeks or perhaps one day over that period. The "Koast to Koast Kissel Kar" is to be used. Kissel branches all the way along the route have been notified and at many places Miss King will be welcomed by delegations of owners. At Oakland several owners are to meet the ferry which carries the young driver across the bay and are to escort her well on her way toward Sacramento, the first stop. The point of chief interest about the trip, perhaps, outside the fact that a woman is to undertake the task, is that the run is to be made over the Lincoln Highway. Previous runs of this character have generally elected the Southern or the Santa Fe trail. The daily schedule to Chicago follows:

This is a Feature Story in the San Francisco Chronicle

This is a feature story in the San Francisco Chronicle, August 22, 1915:

"Coming to San Francisco to make her real start on the cross-country trip from the Panama Pacific International Exposition, Miss Anita King, the moving picture star, will arrive here on Thursday after driving alone in her KisselKar from Los Angeles. A few days later, she starts from the exposition grounds for a noteworthy overland trip, entirely alone, to New York City.

Miss King's plan contemplates the breaking of several records. The unbroken run from Los Angeles constitutes a woman's record in itself. The later and longer journey is a severe one for a woman to undertake, and the proposed time, three weeks, would establish a record for a woman driver. Whether or not that schedule is adhered to, she will establish a record as the only woman to make the trip alone.

She has been driving for seven years and says she is entirely capable of making her own repairs, camping alone in the desert if necessary, and protecting herself. Motorists who have driven the coast route between San Francisco and Los Angeles will admit that Miss King has nerve.

Her schedule allows for less than eighteen hours, close to an average of thirty miles an hour, and this a steady run without pause longer than necessary for a quick meal. In order to avoid traffic and get up as much speed as possible, the young woman will leave Los Angeles at 6 P.M., as a result of which she expects to be at San Jose by 9:45 A.M. The plan contemplates a quick run to the exposition and the placing of the car in the KisselKar exhibit in the Palace of Transportation, there to remain until the start for the East on September 1st.

In the meantime, Miss King will have equipped herself with San Francisco credentials supplementing those obtained in Los Angeles, the latter including a letter from the Mayor of the southern city to Mayor Mitchel of New York City. President W. L. Hughson of the Pacific KisselKar branch and others will meet her at San Jose and escort her a short distance toward the East, just as the Los Angeles motorists are escorting her a few miles toward San Francisco."

August 29, 1915 - Oakland Tribune - 

"Considerably to the surprise of many motorists who are aware of motoring difficulties between San Francisco and Los Angeles, Anita King sped into San Francisco Thursday only ten minutes off the schedule prepared for her by the KisselKar branch, and still beating eighteen hours by five minutes. Miss King . . . asserts she could better that time on another trial. "I believe it can be done in little more than twelve hours and a half," she said. "I lost a sinful amount of time because I lost my way on the unmarked highway, and couldn't find it for hours in spite of the fact that I must have waked all the farmers in two counties by my yells for information." The knickerbocker-clad driver had no difficulty in gathering a crowd about the 42-Six Kissel Kar in which the trip was made. Over the open body of the car is stretched a heavy white canvas. Before Miss King left the Exposition, after having her picture taken various times, the canvas was nearly covered with the signatures of interested spectators. She wearied of answering questions and announced she was going to her hotel. "Please remember," she said, "that I have had no sleep and no food since I started, and I need both. Also I wish to get rid of some of this dust, and it's hard to tell which I want to do most." The schedule provided for leaving Los Angeles at 6 p.m. Wednesday and arriving in San Francisco at 11:45 a.m. Miss King left Los Angeles ten minutes in advance, and crossed the San Francisco city line at almost the exact minute scheduled. A variation of ten minutes is not enough to worry, and the bettering of an eighteen-hour record by five minutes is thoroughly satisfactory to everybody except Miss King. She says she is coming back from New York just to beat her record by three or four hours. The young woman told interesting tales of her trip, dwelling with enthusiasm on the number of people she awoke in her effort to learn where the highway was. She says she is going to head a movement to have the real highway marked more accurately. "The car itself ran like a charm," she said. "There may be cause for complaint about the highway, but none about the car that was furnished me. I wouldn't take anything for it now after the severe test it stood last night, and I have perfect confidence about the trip to the east. There should be no difficulty whatever about making it, without any variation from schedule."

Our Grandmother - Lucia (Lucy) Keppen

Our grandmother - Lucia (Lucy) Keppen became very ill in 1914. Aunt Anita encouraged her to spend the winter months with her in Hollywood - but Anita's hope that the warmer sunshine didn't improve Lucy's health and she died back home in Michigan City and died in the spring of 1915. Anita became very depressed with the death of our grandmother.

A number of different factors helped her with her grief. Jesse Lasky's Players merged with another company from the east coast - Famous Players - to form a dominate American Film company - Paramount Pictures Corporation.

-Paramount Pictures wanted to create publicity about the newly formed company.
-The Kissel Kar Co. wanted to promote their company along with the country's first transcontinental highway.
-The 1910's women's suffragette movement was taking an important part of our country's current politics.

Anita heard Jesse Lasky state that "it would be at least ten years before the Lincoln Highway from ocean to ocean would be in such shape that a lady could mae the drive without difficulty." Anita took that as a challenge and Lasky offered to pay her expenses and if she completed the trip would gift her her very own Kissel Kar.

For publicity purposes - Anita was named "The Paramount Girl" and plans were for her to stop at theaters throughout her trip and share information about the motion picture industry.

The Los Angeles Times wrote -

"There will be nobody with her at any time on the trip. She will have no mechanician, no chauffeur, no maid. Her only companions will be a rifle and a six shooter. If success crowns her efforts, she will have done one of the few feats that have not been done before."

Anita King - The Film Star - Portfolio of Glamour Shots

The Silent Film Era

Motion Pictures - the Silent Film Era - was the exciting new industry of the century. Anita King was 29 when she began acting in Hollywood at the Jesse Lasky Feature Play Company under the direction of a young director - Cecil B. DeMille. Anita claimed to be 7 years younger than her actual age - saying that she was born in 1891.

Anita's first silent movie was Cecil B. Demille's The Virginian in 1914. 1915 was a busy year for our aunt. These films were released that year -The Man from Home, The Girl of the Golden West, Carmen and Temptation - also films directed by Cecille B. DeMille. Later in 1915 she earned leading roles co-starring with Victor Moore in Snobs (directed by Oscar Apfel) and Chimmie Fadden (directed by DeMille).

Woman Race Car Driver in 1910

Woman Race Car Driver in 1910

When Anita moved out to California - she began modelling and learned how to drive a car. Then began her car racing career in 1910 - the first woman to race. She won a few races until she ended up in the hospital due to an accident. She then decided to return to acting.