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Car ascended Table Rock in 1929

The Southern Oregon Historical Society had an article on June 25, 1929, in the Medford Tribune that reported Hugo F. Lange, vice president of Armstrong Motors, claimed the honor of being the first person ever to reach the summit of Table Rock in a car. Can you tell me how he did it without a road or a good trail? — Jerry, by email 

Armstrong Motors Vice President Hugo F. Lange conceived of the idea of driving a car to the top of Lower Table Rock as a publicity stunt to promote Essex automobiles, which were known for their reliability, according to an article written by Southern Oregon Historical Society Archivist and Historian William Alley.

The article appeared in the May 1999 edition of Southern Oregon Heritage Today, a magazine of the historical society.

According to Alley, Lange was accompanied by an entourage of witnesses, including Ernest White, shop foreman for Armstrong Motors. White came along in case the 1929 Essex Challenger needed mechanical work along the way.

"Lange began his ascent at 8:15 in the morning, with the coterie of witnesses following along on foot," Alley wrote. "The Essex plowed its way through the thick brush and over countless large rocks on the rough trail up the hill, estimated in places at a grade of up to 38 percent. Lange reached the summit of Table Rock after an actual elapsed running time of a mere thirty-five minutes. At no time, it was reported, had the water temperature in the radiator exceeded 108 degrees."

Not content to simply reach the top of Table Rock, Lange drove the Essex 100 yards over rock-strewn ground to reach the rim overlooking the Rogue Valley, Alley wrote.

A photograph taken to document the stunt shows the car traveling uphill on a steep, rough trail with a sign reading "Essex Challenger: First Car to Summit Table Rock."

Another photo shows several men posing with the car and an American flag at the edge of Table Rock. Motion picture footage of the historic ascent was shot, but that film footage has been lost, Alley reported.

Lange's stunt was billed at the time as "the greatest test on motor stamina ever accomplished in southern Oregon."

Essex cars were used in stunts in other parts of the country as well. In 1919, an Essex traveled 3,037.4 miles in 50 hours, averaging just over 60 miles an hour.  

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

An Essex automobile sits atop Lower Table Rock after making its way up the steep and rocky slope in 1929. photo from the Southern Oregon Historical Society