Frank Zirbes

From Kathy Page:

My Grandfather worked for Mitchell in the 1910s first working with motorized bikes, not sure how long and was a test driver that drove Mitchell vehicles to Army at Presidio, CA. He was also a chauffeur for either Mitchell or Lewis family in London.

Frances (Frank) Xavier Zirbes.

I’m looking for any history of his service that anyone might have.

My mom was his daughter Florence.

Gerald Karwowski: Frank Zirbes with a Mitchell motor cycle is number 11 far right.

There’s a great deal of information on the Frank Zirbes FindaGrave page:

Francis Xavier “Frank” Zirbes

BIRTH 24 Oct 1880
DEATH 28 Jan 1954 (aged 73)
Racine County, Wisconsin, USA
Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery
Racine, Racine County, Wisconsin, USA
MEMORIAL ID 155992567

Mitchell Ranger Is Near The City
Zirbes headstone
Frank Zirbes obituary

The Journal-Times (Racine, Wisconsin) September 13, 1909

Blizzard Rages In Path Of Auto

Rain, Mud And Storms Confront Frank Zirbes In Trip to Coast In War Car

Lightning Blinds Driver

Near Council Bluffs the Car Was Met by Indians and Cowboys and Escorted Across the Missouri River. First Tire Trouble of the Run Was in Western Nebraska.

Frank X. Zirbes of the Mitchel Motor Car company of this city is having a remarkable experience driving the 1910 Granger car of the Mitchell Motor Car company from New York city to San Francisco, California. The car is bearing official dispatches from Major General Leonard Wood, U. S. A. commanding the department of the East to Major General J. F. Weston, commander of the West.

Met Raging Blizzard

Terrible climatic and road conditions have been met. A telegram received from Mr. Zirbes this morning is dated at a little town near Ogden, Utah and says that the car and party are passing through a raging blizzard. Letters received from Zirbes are in effect that he and his companions have condensed more real experiences in that portion of their trip lying between western Iowa and Evanston, Wyoming than even the New York-Paris racers encountered.

From the time the Mitchell car left New York until it arrive in Chicago, fifty hours ahead of its schedule, and that without running at night or making any effort at speed marks, no rain fell, and there were no tire or mechanical troubles to delay the machine. As a compliment to the military men in the expedition, the city of Chicago furnished a detail of mounted police to escort the Mitchell car to the suburbs on the run to Clinton, Iowa. But rain caused a slight change in the plans of the military men. Progress through the state of Illinois in a continuous downpour was interrupted at Dixon, where a stop was made for the night.

Pass Disabled Cars.

On the next day the war car passed many automobiles stalled in the mud before reaching the Mississippi river. Dashing through Iowa to take advantage of a lull in the rainstorm, making Cedar Rapids. Leaving the latter place Driver Zirbes was almost blinded by lightning, the rain turning the black earth roads into quagmires. Passing a serious road obstruction – a team of horses struck and killed by lightning – the little car plowed its way through the mud to Tama City. On the run to Council Bluffs the dispatch bearers were met by a delegation of Indians and cowboys from the Buffalo Bill Wild West show and escorted across the Missouri river to Omaha. Both Buffalo Bill and Pawnee Bill rode alongside the military car for miles, the former remarking that had there been an automobile in the service of the government scouts when the frontier reached almost down to Omaha Limits, the “winning of the West” would have been a much more simple operation. In Omaha the largest delegation of Mitchell cars encountered on the transcontinental run acted as escort to the Henshaw hotel, where the Nebraska motoring enthusiasts gave a banquet in honor of the dispatch bearers.

The First Tire Trouble.

Continuing the route to North Platte, the military party made exceptional speed. The first tire trouble of the run was encountered there. Hitting the well known trail to Cheyenne, little difficulty was experienced in maintaining the schedule. However, rain, bridgeless rivers, fordless streams, washout and general execrable conditions made the battle to Rawlins one long to be remembered by the khaki clad dispatch bearers. Time and again the technical knowledge of Lieutenant Rosenthal had to be called into execution to get the car over streams that were over their banks.  Near Creston permission had to be obtained from the Union Pacific railroad to use the company’s bridges in crossing torrents. None of the party is apprehensive of road reverses after leaving Ogden, although the run around the big Sale lade is considered a trying one on an automobile.

The Journal-Times (Racine, Wisconsin) September 20, 1909
Mitchell Ranger Reaches ‘Frisco

Frank Zirbes Pilots War Car Across Continent From Ocean to Ocean

Part of Run a “Joy Ride”

Balance Was Full of Hardships, Swollen Streams and Wretched Road Conditions – Car With Contents Weighed Over 4,000 Pounds – At Times An Altitude of 7,000 Feet Was Reached.

After covering 3,524 miles during the first trans-continental motor trip ever essayed in this country for military purposes, the Mitchell Ranger, first 1910 car of the Mitchell Motor Car Company of this city, carrying dispatches from Major General Leonard A. Wood, U. S. A., at New York, to Major General John F. Weston, U. S. A., San Francisco, arrived at the Presidio late Saturday afternoon.

At the wheel of the mud-spattered car since leaving Governor’s Island, August 19, Private M. E. Parrott, who was entrusted with the message by Major General Wood, alternated as pilot with Frank X. Zirbes, a well known Racine boy, a driver who has attracted national attention as a successful contestant in twenty-four hour races, and who was practically brought up in the local factory.

Had to Build Bridges

Accompanying them and in charge of the party was Lieutenant B. B. Rosenthal, whose services in the Signal Corps thoroughly equipped him to overcome the wretched road conditions which were encountered during the strenuous Atlantic to Pacific trip. Several bridges that had been swept away by washouts had to be rebuilt.

Because of Major General Wood’s desire to have an auto service inaugurated in connection with the regular and volunteer service, the trip was undertaken by Private Parrott in the Mitchell Ranger. After reviewing the conditions encountered it will be seen that the automobile has shown its adaptability to carry dispatches across prairie, desert and mountain under any and all conditions.

Bad Roads in Iowa

Driver Zirbes, who piloted the car most of the way, says that at times Cook and Peary had nothing on the party in the way of hardships.

“The run from New York to Chicago was a joy ride,” said Zirbes, “and it was not until we came to the Iowa gumbo that we got a taste of what was ahead of us in the way of bad roads.

“The Mitchell Ranger, which was the first of the 1910 four-cylinder models turned out by Designer Bate at the Racine factory, had no special mechanical equipment and weighed exactly 2,200 pounds. However, with our military paraphernalia, axes, ropes, planks, luggage and ourselves, it weighed when in route 4,050 pounds, and that was some tonnage to pull. We were at times over 7,000 feet above the sea level.”

Journal-Times 29 Jun 1907

From Hank Malcolm’s Mitchell Family Story—”In 1910, William T., wife, and chauffeur/mechanic Frank Zirbes took off for a year’s tour of Europe. They traveled some 28,000 miles and opened dealerships in London and Paris. The Mitchell was well-established as “THE CAR YOU OUGHT TO DRIVE AT THE PRICE YOU OUGHT TO PAY”–their motto.“

The Journal Times (Racine WI) 13 Jul 1911