First Indianapolis 500 - 1911

This is a large collection of articles concerning the 1911 Indianapolis 500. This content covers practice and preparation for the event, many featuring the star drivers such as eventual winner Ray Harroun, Ralph Mulford, Bob Burman and Ralph DePlama. Barney Oldfield, who was banned by the AAA during this period and missed the first Indianapolis 500, wrote a racing column and several of his contributions are contained in this folder. Complete race day coverage is yet to be added, but will be included them in the future.


These are two short articles reflecting on the first Indianapolis 500. One reports on the condition of the drivers and mechanics that were injured during the race. This article also describes the initial arrangements to care for the body of Samuel P. Dickson, the race's only fatal injury. Dickson, the riding mechanic for driver Art Greiner, was killed when their Amplex racer crashed into the fence at the head of the backstretch of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
 

It's articles like this that add so much to capturing the color of the history of old Indianapolis. This article describes the race day crowd at the city's storied Union Station - one of the largest in the United States and still in existence today. Keep in mind the bulk of the population relied heavily on trains for transportation in 1911.

Here is a pair of articles discussing how the crowd for the first Indianapolis 500 was controlled and the economic impact of visitors to the city for the big race. These articles were printed May 31, 1911 in the Indianapolis News.

These are a pair of very brief items that provide a nice slice of life. Joe Horan, an Amplex driver that was injured in practice in the same car Art Greiner wrecked during the race (riding mechanic Sam Dickson was killed), had spent several days in a local hospital with a broken leg. On race day he was transported to the track in an ambulance and carried to the roof of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's infield hospital. There he was provided a recliner chair to enjoy the race.
 

The art of pick-pocketing was in full practice at the first Indianapolis 500. This article is from the May 31, 1911 Indianapolis News.

At the first Indianapolis 500 Carl Fisher's ballooning mentor, George L. Bumbaugh made a balloon ascension. I thought this was an interesting sidelight  in that someone had an aerial perspective to at least a portion of the race. The article is in very poor condition and is very brief. I just see it as a data point that fleshes out the context of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 30, 1911. The article was published in the May 31, 1911 Indianapolis News.

This content was originally published in the Indianapolis News on May 31, 1911. A key figure in the most spectacular accident of the first Indianapolis 500, Harry Knight was also hailed as something of a hero. After Joe Jaggersberger's Case broke a steering knuckle his riding mechanic, Charles Anderson tumbled out onto the brick-paved Indianapolis Motor Speedway home stretch. In front a stunned sold-out grandstand crowd, Knight violently swerved his Westcott #7 racer to avoid hitting the stricken Anderson.

This editorial cartoon from the June 1, 1911 Indianapolis News poses the question to John and Jane Q. Public, "Did you see any of the estimated $500,000 spent by visitors to the city for the big 500-mile race?" The insinuation, apparently, is that all that cash was exchanged between "fat cats." The cartoon illustrates that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was big business to the city from the very moment it was born. There was a sense of extraordinary destiny to the place and its importance to Indianapolis - right from the beginning.

Renowned auto racing promoter Ernie Moross made much of entering "Wild" Bob Burman to drive one of his two new Benz imports for the first Indianapolis 500.

Although Lewis Chevrolet had retired from auto racing to form the Chevrolet Motor Company with William Durant in 1911, the sense of grandeur about the first Indianapolis 500 compelled him to throw his hat in the ring as a relief driver. At first he considered the Buick team, and then later he offered his services to Amplex. None of those cars would last long enough in the race for a relief driver to be necessary.