The Man and Car that Circled the Globe

by George N. Schuster, Sr. as told to Jeff Mahl with Bob Sblendoro and John Taibi 


George Schuster is the man who drove, as well as repaired and kept the 1907 Thomas Flyer in running order throughout the 1908 New York—Paris race co-sponsored by The New York Times and Paris’ Le Matin newspapers.

Some of you may have read the modest little book (5.5 x 8.5″ 79 pages) published in the early 1990s titled The Great Automobile Race; New York to Paris 1908. But now you can read more fully about the entire race experience—and in a more generously illustrated presentation, too—than ever before in The Man and Car That Circled the Globe. 

Jeff Mahl is George Schuster’s great grandson and grew up listening to his “great gramps” tell of the experiences. Mahl inherited the journal Schuster had maintained on the trip as well as artifacts such as those seen below. For a number of years, Mahl has also been doing presentations relating parts of his great grandfather’s story. Mahl bears an uncanny resemblance to his great grandfather and has refined his presentation over the years, donning a shop coat and period cap, turning his presentation more into a performance á la Hal Hollbrook recreations of Mark Twain.

Jeff Mahl still has the medicine kit his great gramps carried ‘round the world, as well as the sextant shown beneath it, and, on right, George Schuster’s compass.

The book is a winner just as George Schuster and that 1907 Thomas Flyer had been in their day. The book’s publisher is the Buffalo (New York) Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum which released it July 2023 in conjunction with a special celebration it hosted during the week that Buffalo, New York, where the museum is located as was the E.R. Thomas Motor Company, had designated “Thomas Flyer Week.” Part of the celebration included Mahl once again re-creating his great gramps but this time he was seated behind the wheel of the very car George Schuster had driven in 1908, on loan from the National Automobile Museum (The Harrah Collection) in Reno, Nevada where it resides.

As the book’s publisher the museum is the only place that sells it. But they make it easy as all you need to do is go to its website and click on the link beneath the cover of the book on the home page.

It’s a good read that is, as said, generously illustrated. Those vintage images have been scanned hi-resolution and are printed large which aids seeing details—at least those details that are visible through the mud, muck, and snow with which the Thomas Flyer, Zust (an Italian make), and Protos (of Germany) contended even as the other three entrants had fallen by the wayside.

One takeaway from reading this book—and not to be made light of—is the incredible adversity Schuster and his teammates, as well as those of the other five competitors, faced and had to overcome by sheer tenacity and spirit. As you read, just try to imagine what they experienced then. As an example, contrast George Schuster’s words and experiences with the more recent Key West, Florida–Deadhorse, Alaska trek of Tom Cotter and his buddy, photographer Michael Alan Ross.

The year following Schuster’s successful completion of the New York–Paris race, a transcontinental competition was held in the US. E.R. Thomas invited George Schuster to again drive the Flyer pacing or leading the ten-car entry in that race along its New York–Seattle route. Schuster declined knowing how worn and weary the Flyer was. He figured the car wouldn’t make it and that proved prophetic, for the car, driven by two other Thomas Motor Co. employees, made it only as far as Idaho before having to be shipped back to Buffalo.

A little (5.25 x 8.25″ 104-page) book titled The Big Race was written by the son of that transcontinental race’s winning driver. Jack B. Scott relates his dad’s, Burt W. Scott, experiences driving one of the two Ford Model Ts entered by Henry Ford. Scott brought the car home first but according to Leo Mehl in his 2000-published Ford: The Dust and the Glory, “five months later it was discovered that the winning Ford had managed to change its engine en route, and disqualification was the result.” Son Jack doesn’t include that part in his book thought to have been published in 1984.

The Man and Car that Circled the Globe is well worth the extra effort to obtain a copy for it tells—and tells well—of the challenges of finding their way in an era when roads, much less improved roads, were essentially nonexistent as they made their way from New York’s Times Square to the Eiffel Tower in 169 days traversing some 22,000 miles in all.

The Man and Car that Circled the Globe
by George N. Schuster, Sr. as told to Jeff Mahl with Bob Sblendoro and John Taibi
Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum, 2023
176 pages, 201 b/w & 49 color images, softcover
List Price: $45
ISBN: none
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