Earl Kiser was one of the early pioneers of auto racing and was one of the most noted and respected race car drivers of his day. Earl drove in the days of the dirt tracks, when the rewards were frail in comparison to the thousands of dollars that are awarded to the NASCAR and Indy car drivers of today. For Earl, a $250 cash prize and a gold medal were a big take.
The “Winton Bullet,” built by Alexander Winton was the car that made Earl famous. He was young and strong and took the wheel to victory competing with such celebrities as Barney Oldfield, Tom Cooper, Fred Loughhead, the Canadian champion, Pontecchi of Italy, Chinn of England, and C. S. Mertens of Holland.
In August of 1904, the Cleveland Press wrote, “Later in the special match race, Kiser broke the record, driving the last mile in the extraordinary time of 52 and 4/5 seconds and winning the race as well. This established Kiser as the full- fledged world champion and gives him one of the many records heretofore held by Oldfield.” This of course was in the “Winton Bullet,” now housed in the Smithsonian Institution. Kiser took the World Championship racing at what was then a terrific speed of 68 miles per hour for the distance of one mile. But things changed on a track in Cleveland on August 12, 1905.
RACE TRACK, GLENVILLE, OH, AUGUST 12 – NEWSPAPER BULLETIN: Earl Kiser’s Winton Bullet just crashed through the fence near the half mile pole. Kiser is seriously injured. His left leg was torn off and the bullet is a mass of flames. Kiser was not satisfied at the manner in which the Winton Bullet worked before he made his second run of the car. The cylinders exploded irregularly and Kiser seemed worried. Nevertheless, he took the car out for another trial. He had just turned off the back stretch when the spectators in the stands were horrified to see his car skid at the turn and crash into the fence. The rails and post were scattered in all directions. The accident occurred so suddenly that Kiser had no chance to control his machine. The gasoline and oil caught fire from the sparks and the car was immediately a mass of flames. Hundreds of spectators ran to the scene of the accident, dodging the other cars which were speeding around the track. Kiser’s left leg was taken off below the knee. Kiser was taken from under the car before the flames reached him. He remained conscious and exclaimed, “Oh, my God, my leg!” In the hospital, Kiser who had also broken a shoulder blade told a friend jokingly, “I’m still on earth Pat, but minus a leg. They will have to advertise me as the only one-legged driver on the circuit. I’ll be a big drawing card.”
Later, Kiser became an auto dealer with a store on East Second Street as well as a salesman for various auto accessory agencies and worked at this before relocating to Miami Beach, Florida, where he worked in real estate development and was the owner of the Nautilus Hotel.
Earl Kiser is located at Woodland Cemetery near other great men of Dayton such as the Wright Brothers and Paul Laurence Dunbar. He was the grandson of Daniel Kiser who was the name bearer of Kiser School in Dayton. Earl Kiser was known as “The Little Dayton Demon” in the days before auto racing and he was even then one of the leading names on the professional bicycle circuit.
Earl who was 5’6″ and weighing in at 155 pounds raced for the Dayton Bicycle Club and later the Stearns “Yellow-Fellow Team” which toured Europe and competed in the 1900 World Championship in Paris. Earl Kiser held the ½ mile and the one mile world record. Earl Kiser had two streets in Dayton named in his honor, Earl Avenue and Herbert Street. Daniel Street and Kiser Street are named for his grandfather and are all located near the interchange of I-75 and Route 4.
Earl Herbert Kiser died on January 19, 1936 at the age of 60. He is located in Section 101 Lot 2487.
Woodland Cemetery, founded in 1841, is one of the nation’s oldest rural garden cemeteries and a unique cultural, botanical and educational resource in the heart of Dayton, Ohio. Visit the cemetery and arboretum and take one of the many tours Woodland offers free of charge. Most of Dayton’s aviation heroes, inventors and business barons are buried at Woodland.
Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum is located at 118 Woodland Avenue off of Brown Street near the University of Dayton Campus. The Woodland Office is open Monday through Friday 8 am to 5 pm and Saturday 8 am to 12 pm. The Cemetery and Arboretum are open daily from 8 am to 6 pm and until 7 pm during Daylight Saving Time. The Mausoleum is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm. For more information, call 937-228-3221 or visit the Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum website.