SEATTLE – Trophies won by champion driver Joan Newton Cuneo in the early days of auto racing will be sold by a Seattle auction house on Aug. 18. Cuneo was one of the most celebrated drivers in the country until male competitors banned women from the sport in 1909.
Joan Newton was born into a wealthy family in Holyoke, Massachusetts, in 1876, the youngest of four daughters. In 1898, Newton married Andrew Cuneo, a successful New York banker, who encouraged her passion for fast automobiles.
Two trophies entered in the auction, which is being conducted by MBA Seattle Auction House, are from the 1909 Mardi Gras Speed Carnival. Cuneo won events there shortly before being barred from competing against men drivers.
Another silver-plated loving cup trophy was awarded to Cuneo in 1911 for recording a half-mile world’s record time for a woman, driving her Pope Hummer on the Long Island Parkway at 111.5 miles per hour.
The most impressive award is a Gorham sterling silver plaque presented to Cuneo by the Rainier Motor Company for posting a perfect score in the 1908 Glidden Tour, a prestigious endurance rally in which many early automobile manufacturers participated. The shield-shape plaque measures 16 by 13½ inches. It is engraved with the inscription “Perfect Score In The Glidden Tour of 1908 Being The First Woman Driver To Accomplish This In The History Of The Tour.” Several engravings on the plaque picture the No. 15 Rainier car driven by Cuneo. The plaque is estimated at $40,000-$60,000.
In 1915 Cuneo’s marriage ended in divorce due to her husband’s scandalous involvement with a showgirl. No longer in the limelight in 1917, Joan Newton Cuneo and her daughter Dolly moved to the Deerfield Valley of Vermont. In 1923, she followed her childhood sweetheart, James F. Sickman, to Ontonagon, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where she married and resided until her death in 1935.
Grant Zahajko of MBA Seattle Auction House said that the trophies have been consigned by a granddaughter of Cuneo.
“Her granddaughter figures somebody must have melted down the sterling silver trophies because there are a bunch of trophies in pictures that no one can account for. What we have now are a few fabulous silver-plated trophies,” he said, as well as the Gorham sterling plaque.
Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.com.