Oregon's Own, The Duchess - Only Woman Race Car Owner & Promoter

Oregon's Own, The Duchess - Only Woman Race Car Owner & Promoter

 

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During the 1930s and ‘40s, the enigmatic “Duchess” was the only woman race car owner, manager or promoter. Most knew her in racing only as the Duchess, but Portland’s Dorothy Hylah Gruman raced midgets and big cars under her Duchess Racing Team throughout the west coast, specifically Oregon and California, as well as some in Washington and British Columbia.

 

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After purchasing her first race car in 1935, her fleet included a Dusenberg, McDowell, and air-cooled Douglas raced by Swede Linskog, Les Anderson (also from Portland), Bob Swanson, Jimmy Miller, Louise Sherman (Spokane), Larry Wright, Woody Woodford, Bobby Grayson and Gaby Harkness.

 

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She also managed stunt driver Crash Campbell and Portland’s George “Jud” Fuller was Anderson’s mechanic and navigator while driving for the Duchess. She worked with a number of racing magnets on the west coast including race promotor Chas Curryer who started the Oakland 500, which Anderson raced in the Duchess’ Dusenberg.

 

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During the war, in 1942, she was employed at the Portland Port of Embarkation. Her husband Ralph Gruman was a boxer and then later a boxing referee and promoter. Born November 8, 1899, Gruman died on her 60th birthday in 1959 following an extended illness.

 

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The scrapbook of articles, correspondences, photographs, publicity and papers relates primarily to the Duchess, her drivers, and her part in racing during the late 1930s and early 1940s; there are a few photos relating to her husband and boxing as well as a singular photo print of Art Pollard.

 

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Loose images were included in the scrapbook when donated to the World of Speed Archive, some likely connected to pages that have written credits (included). Blank pages in the scrapbook have been removed from the digitized scrapbook below.