AAA Consolidates Power

This article from the February 21, 1909 Indianapolis Star (attachment AAAcontrocl022109) is interesting in that it announces the American Automobie Association's (AAA) plan to consolidate its power as the overarching automobile race sanctioning body in the United States. For years I have seen secondary references saying the AAA formed its "contest board" in 1909 and I believe this development is what those people are referencing. However you can find any number of first hand newspaper accounts prior to 1909 that mention an "AAA Contest Board," so the name, at least, is not totally new and contributes a bit to confusion. I also believe this announcement has contributed to the confusion about when a points-based national championship was established. Some say it is 1909 but it was not - the points championship started in 1916 and then went on World War I hiatus until it was resumed in 1920.
In a way, I see this 1909 announcement as a kind of exclamation point on the power of the contest board. One thing that was new about the contest board was that the AAA had worked diligently to consolidate their power by developing a collaborative agreement with the Manufacturer's Constest Association (MCA) formed specifically to allow the auto makers to define the "classes" (the word "formula" gets thrown around more today) of cars.
The manufacturers - as they do today - found racing interesting but swallowed hard on the cost and struggled to calculate the benefit. Also, the issue of "freak" versus stock racers was a constant source of debate as part of the justification for manufacturer participation was that the cars on the track should be fully relevant to the ones in the showroom. As observed though in the 1908 Long Island Motor Parkway Sweepstakes and the 1909 Vanderbilt Cup, however, the appeal of stock cars as a spectacle was clearly lacking as evidenced by the weak attendance at those events.
The article touts the advantages to the spectator and manufacturer because of higher quality events and safer environments. The manufacturer probably did appreciate a single authoritative body of which they were members. However, the benefit to the AAA is obvious in that it effectively gave them a monopoly status on organizing all racing events. This put them at odds with other ambitious racers notably Barney Oldfield who frequently felt the AAA added no value and was actually an unnecessary middle man syphoning off revenue. Oldfield endured a number of suspensions from AAA competition as a result, most significantly in 1910 in the aftermath of his ill-advised match race with heavyweight boxer Jack Johnson.
The timing of this announcement was probably not a coincidence with the recent resolution of the frustrating and protracted battle with the Automobile Club of America (ACA). The ACA did significant damage to the AAA in asserting its authority as the representatie body of United States-based racing to the international governing organization led by the Automobile Club of France. The Vanderbilt Cup was forever reduced in stature and the ACA's greatest accomplishment came in the form of a rival race, the American Grand Prize. Because of the ACA's political position with ACF the Grand Prize earned the right to draw on the prized European manufacturers.

AAAcontrol022109.pdf491.15 KB