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Race pioneer Joan Newton Cuneo's trophies to be sold

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Properly attired for touring in an open motor car in cold weather, Joan Newton Cuneo was always eager to compete.

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.

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No powder puff, Joan Newton Cuneo steers an early race car along a road course.

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.

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Joan Newton Cuneo won this trophy competing in a hill climb event sponsored by the Upper Westchester Auto Club, Ossining, N.Y., in 1910.

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.

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The Rainier Motor Company awarded this sterling silver plaque to driver Joan Newton Cuneo for achieving a perfect score in the 1908 Glidden Tour. MBA Seattle Auction House image

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

For additional information, contact MBA/Seattle Auction House by emailing or calling 425-235-6345 or 425-277-7915. Online:

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