Ah, Spring in Santa Rosa. The colorful roses, the whiff of barbecue, the deafening roar of overpowered engines at the fairgrounds that ruin the evenings for everyone living near downtown. Now that the city is trying to lure developers into building high-rise apartment buildings, perhaps someone should mention that those units will be uninhabitable on weekends when there are motorcycle/hotrod races, destruction derbies or monster truck rallies. Hey, while we’re discussing a makeover of the downtown area anyway, could we please consider swapping the locations of the county fairgrounds and county admin center? Just a thought.
Santa Rosa’s always been a race-lovin’ town, however, starting with our hosting the first California Grand Prize Race in 1909. Even when there were fuel shortages during WWI and WWII we packed the grandstand to watch drivers spin around the dirt track and not-so-rarely crash. There have been deaths (two motorcycle racers were killed in 2016) and some of the pileups became the stuff of legend, such as the flaming tangle of nineteen Model T Fords in 1939 (“a smash-up spectacle Cecil B. De Mille couldn’t have staged,” gasped the Press Democrat).
Of all the events at the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds I’ve read about in the old newspapers, there’s one I’d have truly loved to have attended: On July 4, 1918, Ed Dooley and another driver slammed their massive cars together head-on at an impact speed of 100 MPH, the men jumping out at the last second. At age 39, Dooley had never done anything like this before; he was a portly ex-salesman who apparently woke up one morning and decided he was fearless.
Dooley was never a race car driver; he only drove big, heavy touring cars which would seat 6-8 people and at the time cost as much as a small house. He had a gimmick, being that he only drove with his knees and feet, his hands cuffed behind his back. That’s not quite as astonishing as it might seem, as in all photos he is seen with the handcuffs behind his neck, so he could have swung them over his head if he needed to take control in an emergency or needed to scratch his nose. And although the automatic transmission didn’t yet exist, the cars he used were easy to shift gears because they had a linear gearbox, not the “H” pattern on today’s manual transmissions. A video of one of his favorite model cars, the Winton 6, shows the layout which made it possible to shift by throwing his leg over the stick (the entire short video is worth watching if you’re at all curious about what’s needed to restore such an old vehicle).
On his 1918 WWI draft card Dooley listed his job as “performer in exhibitions” which was quite a new claim – in every earlier document he’s simply a salesman. He worked mostly for J. W. Leavitt & Company, which was the Oldsmobile dealership in San Francisco and distributor for the brand in California and Nevada. Ed was always described as well-known and well-liked, which is to say he had the traits of a good car salesman.
Almost nothing about Kieran Edward Dooley can be found prior to his adventures with handcuffs. He was born in Minnesota in 1879, the youngest of nine Irish farm children. His future wife, Nellie, was born four years later on a nearby farm.
Nor do we know why he started doing shackled driving stunts in 1917 as the “Cowboy Chauffeur.” A mid-life crisis? He was associated from the beginning with western themes and had a custom saddle to fit the hood of his car. At rodeos, local cowpunchers would try to hold on while Dooley made the car “buck” and sometimes he chased down a steer as the cowboy on the hood tried to rope it.
We know he made appearances that year at a rodeo in Salinas, the Stanislaus Livestock Fair and the Arizona state fair, but if he was paid much or anything for these appearances is anyone’s guess. It’s possible he was underwritten by the carmaker; in a 1917 newsletter for dealers, “The Oldsmobile Pacemaker,” it was boasted, “this feat of Dooley’s of driving without his hands and of guiding the car with his knees, proves how absolutely true the alignment of the wheels and steering mechanism is and how easily an Oldsmobile may be handled.” Another blurb appeared in the Los Angeles Times where Dooley praised the Oldsmobile Eight as a “super-quality” car.
It may be discovered he performed at other 1917 rodeos and fairs in the hinterlands – many newspapers from smaller counties are not yet online, and he didn’t get much coverage anyway. There was one brief item in a Modesto paper when he appeared there, and they misnamed him as “Dan” Dooley.
But truthfully, the hands-free driving schtick had limited appeal. It was more like a party trick, and one of the mentions that year had him driving up and down one of San Francisco’s steepest streets on a bet with other salesmen at the Olds dealership.
Come 1918, however, the “Cowboy Chauffeur” was reborn as “Daredevil Dooley” and “‘Suicide’ Ed Dooley.” Ed still did everything handcuffed but it became part of a complete show: “Dooley’s Automobile Rodeo,” which was to make its world debut at the Santa Rosa fairgrounds.
Dooley now had a press agent, a performance team and a small fleet of luxe cars to wreck. Who bankrolled the show is unknown, but it seems clear the objective was to get a Hollywood deal. An item in a Sacramento paper was clearly lifted from a PR handout: “Dooley has worked with Doug Fairbanks, Bill Hart and many of the big leaguers in the picture and racing world, and a year ago beat Barney Oldfield and others in the Phoenix race.” He was never in a race of any kind with Oldfield and no mention whatsoever can be found of him associating with moviemakers, although a newsreel crew supposedly filmed the whole doings in Santa Rosa.
The novelty act in the show was the “world’s youngest driver,” Ed’s son Ronald, who they claimed was five years-old but was actually six (Ed also shaved a couple of years off his own age when he registered for the draft later that year). More PR, this time appearing in the Press Democrat: “…this little chap, who cannot reach around the steering wheel, who has to slide ‘way forward in his seat to reach the brakes or change gears, is a thoroughly accomplished driver. Dooley tested his son repeatedly in the heavy traffic of San Francisco, and is satisfied that the boy has won his spurs.”
There were eleven parts in the Santa Rosa program, as transcribed below. Ed did his usual handcuff tricks and the cowboy bucking stunt along with a tug of war between two autos, a relay race and a few other competitions with both cars and motorbikes. There was also “the man from the Philippines, climbing a greased pole 40-foot high,” about which the less said.
The big attraction, of course, was the head-on collision. “‘First exhibition of its kind in history,’ the press agent says.”
From the Sebastopol Times: “…And then will come the tremendous finale, the daring, death-defying head-on collision of two big touring cars, hurtling across the field toward each other at a rate of fifty miles an hour. Few people have ever seen a serious automobile accident, and those who have bear witness to the thrill of the impact of two great bodies. It is a breath-catching sensation, the one instant before the big cars crash with a roar that can be heard for blocks…”
I’ll offer only a few comments about this stunt: Presumably the driver’s doors were removed; presumably Ed and the other driver had practiced diving out of their cars at high speeds. Still, Edward Dooley was a 39 year-old man and from his photos appeared to be more chunky than lithe. He recently also had been in a highway auto accident near Fresno, when a tire blew out and hurled him 30 feet from the car.
There are no reviews to be found of the show, but we know no one was seriously injured – after all, they did the same head-on show a month later at Idora Park in Oakland. The only additional detail is that in Oakland both cars started from inclines, so it’s possible the engines were not running at the time of the collision.
Another month passed and it was time for the California state fair. The Sacramento papers were calling him “Suicide” Ed Dooley because his new stunt was to jump over a 20-foot high house constructed on the infield of the race track. His 3,000 lb. Oldsmobile Eight would shoot up a 50° ramp, fly over the roof and crash land on the other side.
This time he would not jump free at the last moment. “What will happen however, when the car hits the ground after its terrifying drop, even Dooley himself does not know, although he hopes to escape with nothing worse than a badly smashed car and a severe shaking-up,” said the San Francisco Chronicle.
And here’s the Believe-it-or-Not! twist: As crazy as that was, Ed Dooley had an even more risky stunt planned. Less than a week later, he was scheduled to be back at Idora Park, where he would perform another head-on collision – except it would be in midair this time. Both cars would race up an incline and the drivers would jump out just before the cars hit head-on, twenty feet in the air.
We don’t know if he did that show, and nor do we know if he did the house jump – again, it wasn’t customary to publish reviews of such entertainment events. But there certainly would have been news items if someone was killed or seriously injured, just as it was reported that several attendees were taken to the hospital when an Idora Park carnival ride malfunctioned that same afternoon.
It’s certain, though, that Daredevil Dooley’s career was over, having lasted only three (two?) months. Maybe his backers became cost-conscious after seeing how many $4,000+ autos he was busting up (the equivalent to about $70k per car today). Maybe it was because there was light attendance at his shows, as the Spanish Flu was near its peak and people were advised to avoid public places. Or maybe he could no longer ignore the toll on his middle-aged body caused by all those jumps from speeding cars.
Ed Dooley died in San Francisco about a year later, in December 1919. The cause was said to be “an attack of rheumatism” but it was probably a heart attack – at the time they didn’t understand rheumatoid arthritis is a major risk factor for coronary artery disease.
Had he reflected upon his daredevil days, I’m sure he would have remembered the Santa Rosa appearance as the high mark; not only did he receive the most publicity here but it was the only time his son was part of the show. Our ancestors, however, might not have remembered the day so fondly, as people all over town found themselves being pestered by all that noise in the middle of a very pleasant Summer afternoon. Say, did you just hear a terrible car crash? It sounded awfully close.
Edward Dooley, one of the best known salesmen in the local automobile trade, has been appointed general manager for the Master Spark Company and will make his headquarters in Los Angeles. Dooley has been a member of the J. W. Leavitt Company and is well known to motorists throughout this part of the state.
– San Francisco Examiner, June 8, 1915
DOOLEY READY FOR BIG STUNT
HANDCUFFED HE WILL DRIVE OLDSMOBILE FROM METROPOLIS TO SALINAS
Tomorrow a spectacular stunt advertising the California Rodeo will take place. Ed Dooley will leave San Francisco at 12:30 p. m. from Third and Market street with his hands securely hand-cuffed behind him and under these difficulties will drive an Oldsmobile to Salinas. Miss Kitty Doner, leading star at the Cort theater, will lock the handcuffs and speed Dooley on his way…
– Salinas The Californian, July 16, 1917
COWBOY TO RIDE AUTO AT RODEO
Bucking Motor Car to Be Feature of California Round-Up Next Saturday.
Despite the fact that one of his arms was broken when a high-powered racing car crashed into his “broncho” automobile recently, Edward Dooley, cowboy motorist, who recently drove from this city to Salinas with his hands manacled behind his back, will appear at the California Cowboys’ Roundup, to be held under the auspices of the Newspaper Men’s Club of San Francisco at Ewing Field, September 8, 9, and 10.
Dooley, who is under a surgeon’s care, declared yesterday that he would put his car through its paces at the roundup with his good arm strapped behind him and the injured member in a sling…
– San Francisco Examiner, September 2, 1917
NOVELTY STUNT OFFERED FAIR
Most people have enough trouble driving an auto with their hands but Ed Dooley, called the “Cowboy Chauffeur,” found that too tame and so he has developed the habit of driving the festive motor car with his hands handcuffed behind him. Dooley is in Phoenix planning to hook up with the State Fair for an exhibition if such a thing is possible and with him he brings a big scrapbook of notices of his stunts on the coast.
Dooley has driven hundreds of miles using his feet to shift gears with and his knees to steer by. He climbs in his car up an artificial flight of steps set at an angle of nearly 40 degrees and he does a number of other hair-raising stunts besides, according to press notices.
– Phoenix Arizona Republic, October 10, 1917
See Ed Dooley at the Fair today ride around the track at 40 miles per hour in an Oldsmobile “8” hand-cuffed and steering with his feet!
– Oldsmobile ad in Phoenix Arizona Republic, November 14, 1917
Drives Auto Without Use of Hands or Feet
Ed Dooley, who recently drove an Oldsmobile from Los Angeles with his hands handcuffed behind him, has arrived in San Francisco.
Dooley has found that the Olds is the easiest car on the market to-day to handle this way, and has decided to prove this fact by driving around this city manacled with his hands behind his back.
He has a wager with some of the salesmen of J. W. Leavitt & Co. that he can drive an Oldsmobile up Jones-street hill, stop half way, back down, and then proceed up the hill.
Dooley will drive his auto along the Ocean boulevard in this method this afternoon.
– San Francisco Examiner, December 9, 1917
A spectacular automobile rodeo, with touring cars, runabouts and motorcycles replacing the bucking broncos, wild steers and outlaws of the old rodeo, will be the attraction offered July 4th at the Santa Rosa Fair grounds. The feature of the day will be a head-on collision between two huge touring cars. Ed Dooley, known from coast to coast where daredevil automobile driving creates a thrill, has assembled a group of daring spiries into an aggregation known as Dooley’s Rodeo Company, and the intrepid crew will present their sensational feats of skill and danger on the afternoon of the Fourth.
Dooley’s Los Angeles-Yuma race across the sands of the Mohave won him national recognition as a driver of utter fearlessness. His feats, throughout the southwest country are spoken of with bated breath. His run last year from San Francisco to Salinas, with his hands manacled behind his back, was at once the joy of those who love a new thrill, and the bane of the speed cops.
This year “Daredevil Dooley” as his associates in the auto game call him, has perfected his handcuff driving to such an extent that throughout the entire rodeo July 4th, he will do all his driving, no matter how difficult the feat or how desperate the chance, with his wrists handcuffed behind his neck.
Dooley drives with his knees and the muscles of his legs. Just a few paces ahead may loom sudden danger. Despite the fact that he has not the use of his hands, an almost indistinguistable [sic] motion of the muscles sends intrepid driver and his car safely by. Automobile and motorcycle racing, an auto race backward, a hundred yard dash between a sprinter and an autoist, and several other racing novelties — in all of which Dooley drives handcuffed, will comprise the early part of the program.
Another feature of universal appeal will be the driving of Dooley’s little five year old son, Ronald. This handsome, curly-headed lad, who, his dad claims is the youngest professional driver in the world, handles his big car with a sureness that many an older driver would envy.
The tug of war between two big autos will provide thrills of a different nature. The sight of the huge cars tugging and straining in an effort to conquer their rivals; the battle of the gasoline giants is well worth watching.
But the great feature of the day, the soul-stirring, hair-raising tremendous finale of a program full of thrills, will be offered by the head-on collision. A huge Winton Six will be sent by Dooley (handcuffed) hurtling across the field to crash head-on into a Cadillac, started from the opposite side of the race course. The crash of these two big cars provides a sensation well worth experiencing.
Prior to the opening of the Rodeo. Dooley and his fellow motorists will take part in the big Moose parade. The Fair grounds gates will be opened at noon on July 4, and the rodeo will advance sale of seats will be announced shortly. The price of admission will be $1.
– Press Democrat, June 23 1918
BIG AUTO RODEO AT SANTA ROSA ON JULY FOURTH
…Dooley, who has won a name for himself throughout the country as one of the most daring men who ever handled the wheel of a car, will present many novelties in the way of thrilling driving on the occasion of the big rodeo.
“Daredevil Dooley,” they called him when he flashed into national prominence in the Los Angeles-Yuma Desert Classic several years ago; and in the southwest, men who saw his reckless performance in the wild dash across the sands still speak of his feats with awe…
– Petaluma Argus, June 24 1918
THE AUTO RODEO HERE ON FOURTH
Whole Lot of Merriment and Sport Is Promised by Stunts of “Dare Devil Dooley” and His Aggregation When They Show Here on the Holiday.
Hundreds of small boys from Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties, who are counting impatiently the days until “The Fourth,” which will bring Dooley’s Automobile Rodeo to the Santa Rosa Fair Grounds, are no more impatient for the big day than a certain little fellow, just past his fifth birthday, down in San Francisco.
War demands for powder this year promise to do away with fire-crackers altogether, but the head-on collision of two great touring cars, a giant Winton six and a Locomobile, which are already in Santa Rosa awaiting the word that will send them crashing head-on into each other, this collision of the gasoline giants, the kiddles know, will cause a bang! bigger than any cannon cracker they ever fired in the days before the “Safe and Sane” rule went into effect.
Down in San Francisco, is the little five-year-old son , of “Daredevil Dooley,” the auto handcuff king who will put on the big show. Little Ronald Dooley is counting the days before the Rodeo just as impatiently as any lad who has been figuring on how he would he able to “raise” the price of admission.
For Ronald, on the afternoon of July 4, will make his first bow to the public in the game his father has learned so well, that of professional automobile driver. From the time he has been able to walk, the little fellow has had a love for the big fast cars his daddy uses, and nightly takes his ride behind a daring driver. Little by little, he mastered the controls himself; and now this little chap, who cannot reach around the steering wheel, who has to slide ‘way forward in his seat to reach the brakes or change gears, is a thoroughly accomplished driver.
Dooley tested his son repeatedly in the heavy traffic of San Francisco, and is satisfied that the boy has won his spurs; so Ronald will give his first public exhibition of his skill July 4.
And here’s the good news for all the other kiddies who have been looking forward to the big show and wondering whether there would be a tent for them to sneak under (which there won’t).
In order that there may be a goodly bunch of little fellows and their sisters out to make little Ronald feel at home, Dooley will admit free all children under ten years of age who are accompanied by their parents. Up to 16 half price will he charged.
Remember, the head-on collision of the big autos, racing together at a 50-mlle-an-hour rate, will not be the whole show: not by a whole lot. There will be automobile races, three fast motorcycle contests for purses of goodly size; an auto tug-of-war, automobile bucking contests, an auto hurdle race, racing backward, and many other big events. It will be a big day for both the kiddies and their parents.
In the morning. Donley and his drivers will take part in the Moose parade, with their cars and motorcycles. The gates will open at noon, and the big show will commence promptly at 2:30.
– Press Democrat, June 27 1918
DOOLEY’S AUTO RODEO SANTA ROSA JULY 4
…And then will come the tremendous finale, the daring, death-defying head-on collision of two big touring cars, hurtling across the field toward each other at a rate of fifty miles an hour. Few people have ever seen a serious automobile accident, and those who have bear witness to the thrill of the impact of two great bodies. It is a breath-catching sensation, the one instant before the big cars crash with a roar that can be heard for blocks…
– Sebastopol Times, June 28 1918
ED DOOLEY AND HIS SON ARE HERE
Ed Dooley, famous for his daredevil automobile driving, and his five year-old son are here preparatory to their exhibition at the race track on July 4th. Mr. Dooley has many interesting tales to tell about his experiences and narrow escapes while performing his feats in his big Oldsmobile “8.” Many times he had escaped death by only a hair’s breadth, and has lain in hospitals several times from accidents received while performing his stunts. Following is an article that appeared recently in a Fresno paper after a harrowing handcuff drive between that city and Modesto:
Edward Dooley, handcuffed auto pilot, narrowly escaped death early this morning when the automobile he was driving to the county fair here was ditched as a result of a blowout while the machine was rounding ‘death curve” on the road between this city and Modesto.
The machine, which was traveling at the rate of fifty miles an hour, was completely demolished and Dooley was hurled a distance of thirty feet, escaping, however, with a few minor scratches and bruises.
Dooley, who was a feature at the recent California cowboys’ round-up held by the Newspapermen’s Club of San Francisco, had been showing at the Modesto round-up and was making the handcuffed drive to Fresno on a wager.
At the time of the accident he had covered the greater part of the distance between Modesto and this city in the record time of two hours and 10 minutes.
– Press Democrat, June 29 1918
“DARE DEVIL’S” BIG FROLIC DN THE MORROW
When “Daredevil” Ed Dooley, hands manacled behind his back, hurls his powerful automobile out onto the Santa Rosa Fair Grounds track tomorrow afternoon, his appearance will signal the opening of one of the most spectacularly thrilling programs ever presented on a California race course.
For Dooley’s Automobile Rodeo will be truly a twentieth century roundup. with motor-driven cars, automobiles and motorcycles, replacing the fractious steeds and wild steers of the conventional rodeo; their daring drivers performing feats of skill and danger in a manner bound to bring the throngs to their feet with cheers for the intrepid performers.
Dooley himself is the premier of the daredevil crew who will race their gasoline steeds in novel contests of all kinds. The veteran of a hundred tracks, who has no superior in his line, will perform all his feats without the use of his hands, which will be firmly handcuffed behind his back. With this handicap, he will race the most reckless drivers of his crew; he will drive backward, will take part in the auto relay race, and in the stake or hurdle driving.
The motorcycle races will add their quota of thrills and excitement to the program. Dooley has secured ten of the fastest drivers in the bay district, and will present them in three death-defying contests. Substantial prizes have been offered the winners in the various races, and each man will be out to make the fastest time of which his machine is capable.
The auto bucking contest will be another event far out of the ordinary, and should prove productive of considerable excitement. Dooley during the past week has been busy rounding up range riders famous for their conquests of outlaw horses, and has offered a large bonus to the rider who can stay on a saddle attached to the radiator of his automobile.
– Press Democrat, July 3 1918
PICTURE MEN AT RODEO
With the completion of the track for the head-on collision of two big touring cars at the Santa Rosa Fair grounds on the afternoon of the Fourth, Edward Dooley manager of Dooley’s Automobile Rodeo, announced today that all is in readiness for the spectacular entertainment. Dooley has built a runway for the two cars, that will send them unerringly together to destruction at a fifty-mile an hour rate. The head-on collision will be the spectacular finale of the day’s program of thrills.
Attracted by the possibilities of the many novel events, moving picture producers have been besieging Dooley for the exclusive rights to film the various features; and today Dooley announce that he had finally closed with a San Francisco movie man.
The latter will “shoot” not only the automobile and motorcycle races, but the auto tug-of-war, Dooley himself in his sensational and daring exhibition of handcuffed driving; little Ronald Dooley, five-year old driver; the auto hurdle and relay racing; the auto bucking contest, in which a cowboy attempts to keep to the saddle strapped securely to the radiator of a bucking automobile; the racing backward, and all the other unique events.
Dooley announced today that he would himself pay the war tax on admissions; so there will be no charge outside the admission price…
– Petaluma Courier, July 3 1918
PROGRAM AT THE AUTO RODEO HERE THIS AFTERNOON
Card of Events That Will Be Pulled Off by “Daredevil Dooley” and His Performers at the Race Track This Afternoon, Beginning at Two o’Clock.
The program for “Daredevil Dooley’s Auto Rodeo” at the race track, beginning at half past two o’clock this afternoon, will be replete with many startling and unique features, and “Daredevil Dooley” and his five-year-old son, manly Master Ronald Dooley, will be the principal stars, assisted by a galaxy of other lesser stars. The auto tug-of-war, the great motorcycles and many other features will be on tap for the thousands this afternoon.
“Daredevil Dooley” can do most anything he wants with an automobile hurdle, drive it blindfolded and with his hands manacled and goodness knows what else. His work has attracted thousands at many rodeos.
THE BIG PROGRAM
First event – Motorcycle race; amateur: 10 miles: $5O cash prizes.
Second – Relay race with nine automobiles. First time ever attempted.
Third – Tug-of-war; automobiles.
Fourth – Stake race; with automobiles. First time on record.
Fifth – Ronald Dooley: five years of age; world’s youngest driver; demonstrating his complete control of seven-passenger, 60-horsepower touring car.
Sixth – “Ed” Dooley (“Daredevil” Dooley) in exhibition handcuff stunts
Seventh – “Daredevil” Dooley vs. B. C. Madden in five-mile auto race; Dooley driving handcuffed.
Eighth – Automobile bucking contest.
Ninth – The man from the Philippines, climbing a greased pole 40-foot high.
Tenth – Motorcycle race; five-mile; professional entrants; $50 cash prize.
Eleventh – Head-on collision between a Winton “Six” and a Locomobile “Six”. “First exhibition of its kind in history.” the press agent says.
– Press Democrat, July 4 1918
AUTOS TO CRASH AT IDORA SUNDAY
All is in readiness for the sensational head-on automobile collision which is to be staged in the stadium at Idora Park tomorrow afternoon at 3:30 o’clock sharp.
The spectacle will be a thriller from start to finish.
From the heights of two inclines at opposite ends of the stadium. “Daredevil” Dooley and Jack Rigo will drive the autos at breakneck speed to collide head-on in the center of the stadium.
To see these powerful cars driven to destruction at top speed, with the drivers clinging desperately to the wheel up to a fraction of a second of the terrific compact, is to experience death-threatening suspense, relieved only by the final crash in which the machines crumple up like a deck of cards.
Thrill is piled on thrill during the brief period the autos are racing toward each other, speeding at more than 50 miles an hour.
Dooley and Rigo must keep their nerve. They must use iron control and their eyes must work in unison with their minds. Otherwise they, too, face destruction.
But the spectators need have no fear. “Daredevil” Dooley and Jack Rigo have ridden in this spectacle before. They will leap from the machines a moment before the smash. They will jump to safety.
At any rate Idora visitors are promised the most sensational spectacle, free in the stadium, that has ever been staged in Oakland.
– Oakland Tribune, August 3, 1918
Dooley Will Jump Over 20-Foot House in an Oldsmobile
Other Stunts Will Be Performed at State Fair by Hair-Raising Dare-Devil.
Ed Dooley, famous the country over for his spectacular stunts with automobiles, is here this week and will stage a series of events at the state fair destined to thrill the thousands as they have never been thrilled before.
Dooley will use an Oldsmobile in a sensational leap over a house Monday at 3:3O and several other hair-raising feats will be pulled off during the week. Dooley has worked with Doug Fairbanks, Bill Hart and many of the big leaguers in the picture and racing world, and a year ago beat Barney Oldfield and others in the Phoenix race. He is using the same Olds he used in this race.
Dooley has just finished a 188-mile drive in 4 hours and 45 minutes handcuffed and he will demonstrate his handcuff driving some time during the week at the fair grounds. In the handcuff driving Dooley works with his hands behind his back and his performance has been the wonder of automobile men since he first staged this remarkable event.
– Sacramento Union, September 1 1918
[State Fair schedule] …This afternoon promises to be one of the most interesting of the fair. The most sensational features will be the harness races and the dare-devil ride of “Suicide” Ed Dooley, the cowboy chauffeur.
Dooley will hurl his big Olds machine over the top of a twenty-foot high house while driving with his hands handcuffed behind him.
Dooley, guiding his car with his knees and manipulating the gears with his feet, will depend upon the momentum gained from a dash up a runway to the eaves of the house to carry him clear over the roof.
– Sacramento Union, September 2 1918
DOOLEY WILL DRIVE HIS CAR OFF HOUSETOP
Cowboy Chauffeur to Give Spectacular Exhibition at State Fair
The big spectacular thrill of the California State Fair programme will occur Monday afternoon at 4:30 o’clock, when “Suicide” Ed Dooley, the cowboy chauffeur will hurl his big Oldsmobile Eight touring car over the top of a twenty-foot high house while driving with his hands handcuffed behind him at a speed of thirty or forty miles an hour.
The house and wooden runway approaching it are being erected on the infield of the race track in front of the grandstand especially for the stunt. The runway, rising sharply on a 50 degree angle, will end abruptly a foot or two below the eaves of the house and several feet distant from the side wall.
Dooley, guiding the car with his knees and manipulating the gears with his feet, will depend upon the momentum gained from his dash up the runway to carry him clear over the roof. What will happen however, when the car hits the ground after its terrifying drop, even Dooley himself does not know, although he hopes to escape with nothing worse than a badly smashed car and a severe shaking-up.
– San Francisco Chronicle, September 3 1918
Cars, Head-On in Air, To Be Idora Card
Two automobiles, racing down inclines from opposite ends of the stadium, leaping across a space of fifty feet and crashing head-on in mid-air, this is the spectacle supreme which will thrill Admission Day crowds at Adora Park Monday afternoon.
This thriller has never before been attempted. Engineers have figured out the weight of the cars, the speed necessary for them to travel and the exact spot, twenty feet above the ground, where they will collide head-on.
“Suicide” Ed Dooley will drive one of the machines and Jack Riga the other. Both drivers will jump to safety a fraction of a second before the cars leap skyward.
– San Francisco Examiner, September 7 1918
Ed Dooley, Popular Auto Man, Is Dead
Local motordom is this week mourning the death of Ed Dooley, one of the best-known salesmen identified with the industry. Dooley died Friday following an attack of rheumatism.
Dooley was quite a character, as his many novel stunts with an automobile were so daring that they attracted the attention of the general public. One of his recent feats was to tour to the Salinas rodeo with his hands securely fastened with handcuffs, while on another occasion he drove with handcuffs on through the traffic in Market street escorted by motorcycle police.
For years Dooley had been identified with the distributers of Oldsmobile cars and trucks, having worked as salesman for J. W. Leavitt & Co., as well as the former handlers of this line.
Dooley was not only prominent in the automobile world, but he had a host of friends in all walks of life. Politicians and theatrical people also knew Dooley almost as well as motorists, and he is being mourned by thousands.
A widow and six-year-old son survive.
– San Francisco Chronicle, December 14, 1919