This delightful photograph was sent to us by Thomas Ulrich of the AHG – our sister society in Germany. All Thomas can tell us is that it is Berlin registered. As to the date of the photograph and the car, we cannot be sure – but the car looks very similar to a 1909 12 hp Humber in The Humber Story, the book on early Humbers written by A B Demaus and John Tarring in 1989. It is particularly appropriate that even a possible identification came from that book, because Thomas tells us that: “Years ago I was in contact with John Tarring, who asked me about Humber in Berlin. But first he died some time ago and I just got this photo recently.” Whether we have correctly identified the date and model or not, the image is still a wonder to behold. The Edwardian ladies and young men definitely cut a dash – although they are all perhaps taking the photographic process a little too seriously. Some research into this period indicates that photographic emulsions were by this period quite rapid, and only a fraction of a second of exposure would be needed. We can only surmise that the photograph was being taken by the gentleman of the family.
Humber production up to 1908 was somewhat confusing, with cars being manufactured both at Beeston and Coventry. However, Beeston Humbers were identifiable by a prominent curved dash, which confirms that our picture is of a Coventry-made car. In any case, production at Beeston ceased in 1908.
From 1908 there were many sizes of Coventry-built Humbers, from 10/12 hp 4-cylinder cars up to a 30 hp 6-cylinder, joined in 1909 by an 8 hp 2-cylinder. As regards body styles, The Humber Story lists no less than ten, but the simple Open coachwork is most likely in our case.
Humber continued with a range of models until the First World War, the most remarkable introduction being the reappearance in 1913 of the Humberette, a name used on the highly successful single-cylinder light car introduced originally in 1903 and made for two years. The 1913 version was an air-cooled V-twin, of more refined design than most of the cyclecars popular at that time. Humber also appeared to have had a sudden rush of blood to the head in 1914, by building a team of special cars for the newly-resurrected Tourist Trophy in the Isle of Man. This harked back to Humber’s participation in all the previous TT races held from 1905 to 1908.
After wartime production, during which Humber manufactured W.O. Bentley’s BR series of rotary engines and some complete aircraft such as the Avro 504, Humber successfully returned to car production. But that is a story for another time – and perhaps for another Snapshot, if a suitable picture comes to light.
I agree with a 12 hp Humber, but on the basis of mudguard-style I assume the production year 1908 fits better.
Of course photography was serious business in these days and therefore people caught with ‘cheese’ smiles were still a rarity. I guess smiling on photographs was invented by the stars of theatre and music halls.
I forgot to mention another rarity and that is the script on the radiator. You’ll find also one on a 1911 model in the “The Humber Story” (p.50) and I found one on a photo published in The Autocar in 1909, but for the rest none on the hundreds of period photos I checked. That puzzles me.