J.F. Hathaway is referred to as the Father of Florida Beach Racing for his role in organizing the Florida East Coast Automobile Association and establishing and presenting the early Ormond-Daytona beach races. Hathaway wintered in Ormond-Daytona, as many of those from the northeast did, traveling from West Sommerville, MA (near Boston) to Florida to enjoy the warmer weather. On his visit in the winter of 1900 Hathaway brought one of the first automobiles to Florida, stirring an interest in the machines among the locals. As a result of Hathaway’s efforts and the importance of the beach races, Daytona became a car lovers haven.
Hathaway didn’t just help organize the first race, he also participated. In 1903 Hathaway brought his Stanley steamer machine to Florida and competed in the inaugural tournament.
Hathaway promoted the beach racing by contributing newspaper articles to papers across the country. The articles described the great potential of the Ormond-Daytona beaches for auto contests. Also in 1903 Hathaway promoted the beach racing during his travel in Europe. While he found Americans behind the Europeans in car technology, he believed Americans could catch up.
Sir Thomas Dewar
Sir Thomas Dewar, later Lord Dewar, was an early advocate and supporter of the Ormond-Daytona Automobile Tournament. Dewar was a noted automobilist and supporter of a variety of sporting events, including horse and yacht racing. Dewar, who made his fortune through a distillery, was also an active member of the British Parliament. It was Dewar’s government responsibilities that kept him from the 1906 tournament. However, even when Dewar couldn’t attend his presence was felt. One of the biggest prizes offered at the tournaments, beginning in 1906, was the Sir Thomas Dewar Trophy offered for a 1 mile event.
W.J. Morgan, referred to as “Senator” Morgan and “Motoring Morgan” was the preeminent racing promoter in the United States and led races not only in Ormond-Daytona, but also across the country on beaches, tracks, and roads. Beyond auto racing, Morgan also promoted boat, bicycle, and motorcycle racing.
Morgan’s duties as manager and promoter for the Ormond-Daytona automobile tournaments were diverse.
From his home in New York he served as a representative for the Florida meets in New York, which was an important center for the U.S. business and auto world. One of Morgan’s major responsibilities was generating interest in the races through the print media. Morgan contributed articles and provided interviews and statements to inform the public of the races and build interest nationwide.
Morgan not only promoted racing, he was also an advocate for the good roads campaign, supporting the expansion and improvement of Florida roads. For an example of his efforts, in late 1905 road construction was completed on a road from Daytona to New Smyrna and Morgan went out on the road to gather pictures for publication and promotion of the new route in preparation for the 1906 meet.
Morgan was the mind behind the marketing of the early races. He generated the slogan “two miles a minute” for the 1906 meet which stirred excitement for the races. With that slogan fulfilled, Morgan changed his slogan to “100 miles an hour” before the 1906 meet. The goal was literally to see an automobile cover 100 miles in less than an hour. Morgan made the races an event that was bigger than just the racing. As airplanes were also captivating American’s interest, Morgan arranged for airplane demonstrations and races at the early beach tournaments.
When visitors for the races struggled to find accommodations in the area, Morgan worked with those in Ormond-Daytona and the surrounding area to gather prices and locations for hotels, boarding houses, and furnished rooms that could be enjoyed for the tournament. In 1906 Morgan worked with Florida East Coast Railway to reduce rail shipping costs for those shipping their cars for the meet.
Morgan kept a pulse on what was happening in the racing world and ensured the Florida tournament responded. In 1909 Morgan had applied to American Automobile Association for sanctioning of the meet and then the organization decided to implement significant new rules. The rules would apply to the meet that was already planned and only a couple of months away. Morgan led the fight for fairness for Daytona.
Not all of Morgan’s decisions were popular. Morgan was behind the plan for an invitation only event in 1905. However, Morgan was willing to adapt when there was significant pushback against the plans for a closed meets.
Morgan’s responsibilities were diverse and while his decisions may not have always been universally popular, but without his efforts the meets may have never happened. In fact, the races ended after his retirement from their promotion.