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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Mrs. Riley's Wild Ride: 1921

Mrs. Riley's Wild Ride: 1921

Washington, D.C., 1921. "Mrs. Phil Riley in St. Claire car." (See the comments for more about Mrs. R.) National Photo Company glass negative. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

The Wills Saint Claire Company and Founder

C. Harold Wills Company, the Wills Saint Claire firm, produced some very advanced automobiles, in some ways too advanced. Wills, Henry Ford's first employee, was a bit of a perfectionist. He'd stop the production and make changes as he saw fit. And since his cars would cost far more to produce that his former boss's Model Ts AND with a recession hitting, Wills could not sell enough cars to keep the factory open. To learn more about the car you can contact the museum in Marysville, a friend of mine is the president, Terry Ernest, THE expert on the Wills Saint Claire autos.

Little gal?

I am the modern version of this "little gal" in that I drive a powerful car too: a Chrysler 300C. Since when do you have to be a man to appreciate a fine, Hemi-powered (or any other big motor) car?

Phatsub, what do YOU drive? I (a little gal) will pit my 5.7L Hemi against whatever is in your driveway ANY day!

Early parking light

I was told those side lights were parking lights--required in some urban areas, to be illuminated during darkness, if you parked your car on a public street.

I think this is my grandmother!

My grandparents lived in Woodley Park and were married in 1920. My grandmother later worked at the hotel as a switchboard operator until my father was born in 1924.

The only picture of my grandmother I can immediately put my hands on is attached and was taken when she was about 12 years old. The eyes and nose look very similar to this woman here.

Dave: I would love to have more info about this photo, or know if there are any more, if you can provide.

[What was your grandmother's name? There's another photo here. I've enlarged her face below. Note the man in the window. - Dave]

UPDATE: Grandmother's name was Esther Mildred Maddox Reily (frequently misspelled as Riley of course); she went by "Betty." My grandfather was Philip Joseph "Key" Reily. Thanks for the quick response!

The Mo-lyb-den-um Car

Ad from 1921 in The Washington Post.


I'm curious why so many of the D.C. photos are autocentric.

[Auto enthusiast Herbert French's National Photo Co. counted a number of car manufacturers and dealers among its clients. - Dave]

Big wheels

I wonder if they called them "dubs" back then. What a machine.

What is that ?

a light, below the windshield on the side.

Pretty Snazzy for 1921

Mrs. Riley is looking pretty special in front of the Wardman Park Hotel (later the Sheraton Park). Torn down and rebuilt in, I believe the 1970s, and replaced by a much less interesting hotel building. At least Harry Wardman's Wardman Tower was saved.

I'd be very happy to have that car today.

Wardman Park

Mrs. Riley appears to be posing in front of the main entrance to the original Wardman Park Hotel, completed in 1918 and razed in the 1980s.

Wills Sainte Claire Auto Museum

Learn more about C. Harold Wills and his Wills Ste. Claire automobiles at the Wills Sainte Claire Auto Museum in Marysville, Michigan, located about an hour outside of Detroit.


That is a huge beast of a car. I doubt the lady could see over the bonnet when standing next to it! Does anyone know what the gadget in front of the drivers door might be. A light of some sort perhaps?

Wills St. Claire

I was born in Marysville, Michigan because my grandfather was hired away from the Dodge Brothers by C.H. Wills. The car is a 1921 Wills St. Claire Roadster, the first year they were produced.

I can see the Photographer!

And what is that thing on the car next to him, a spotlight?


The headlight/parking light combo is really cool; and what's that item just in front of her door? Not as new as it appears, judging by the back edge of the front fender, but it has been detailed to a fare thee well by a Simoniz wizard. Where was this picture taken?

[That's mud on the fender. - Dave]

Wills St. Claire

The car was made by C.H. Wills, who worked for Henry Ford before starting his own company. Among his accomplishments at Ford were the introduction of vanadium steel in the Model T and the still famous Ford script. Some of his cars featured an overhead cam V8.

Big car

That looks like an awful lot of car for that little gal. Would love some info about it.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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