AAA National Convention - 1909

In late 1909 the American Automobile Association (AAA) held their national convention in New York City. This is a collection of articles describing the issues of the day, the preparations for the meeting and the decisions made during it.
Attachment MCANews111309 was published in the November 13, 1909, Indianapolis News. This article asserts that "contest rules" were nearly complete and they were essentially defined by the automobile companies through the Manufacturer's Contest Association (MCA) that was formed to give them the ability to define what type of equipment would be raced. The article notes that H.O. Smith (president of the Premier Motor Manufacturing Company based in Indianapolis) was vice president of MCA.
We also learn that the MCA was a new organization, formed just months earlier. There had been growing pains as the announcement of rules was out of sync with the release of new models by the manufacturers. Many cars had been designed and started production before the rules of 1909 were circulated. The group was determined to better organize their process for the 1910 season. The plan was to work to maintain the current rulebook with only changes deemed absolutely necessary.
Some manufacturers wanted to change rules with respect to weight, which in 1909 range through the five classes of stock cars from 1,200 to 2,400 pounds. Others wanted a new classification for larger engines - the greatest displacement was 600 cubic inches at the time. Those who wanted an increase were asking to take the limit to 650.
The MCA was also re-thinking the definition of stock cars. In order to earn the stock classification, a company had previously been required to produce a fixed minimum number for consumer sales, such as 25. The group was considering a switch to a percentage of total production, making it more accommodating for smaller producers.
It is hugely interesting to call out that the article addresses the MCA position with respect to track racing. This had been a controversial issue for several years as manufacturers and AAA leadership regarded them as excessively dangerous. Read this important excerpt.
"Racing upon former horse tracks of a mile or half a mile in circumference will not, it is understood, be placed under the ban by the governing bodies. While the larger number of manufacturers consider such contests dangerous to life and limb, it is conceded that in many parts of the country it will be carried on with or without sanction, and that, under recognition, certain safeguards can be insisted upon that would not be provided were such meetings outlawed."
The rules were largely drafted, and the next step in the process was to seek approval of the AAA Contest Board. Plans also called for the 1910 board membership to be approved as well as the schedule of races for the coming year. Manufacturers had been frustrated in the past by no clear direction on how many races would be scheduled as well as their relative importance. Races happened ad-hoc at far-flung tracks and courses around the country.
Attachment AAA112109 contains an Indianapolis Star article published November 21, 1909. The article concerns the reinstatement of the Automobile Club of St. Louis into the national organization. The article provides this development as one of several that provides evidence nationwide growth and cooperation around a unified effort to work together for "good roads, good laws, and favorable touring conditions."
What is unsaid is that this was probably also part of the healing after the infamous civil war between the AAA and the Automobile Club of American (ACA) after their political struggle for control of the management of auto race events. I am not certain at this point that the St. Louis organization sympathized with the ACA and withdrew from the AAA but there was an active campaign by the ACA to encourage local clubs to break away from their rival.
The article also reports that the Detroit Motor Club had applied for AAA membership. On the west coast, the California State Association reported that membership had increased from "a few hundred" to "more than 1500" at the date of the article's publication.
The article notes that a November 1 price increase by the Maxwell Briscoe Motor Company, consistent with the industry, is not the result of price gouging but the result of soaring raw material costs, particularly rubber. Tires had reportedly increased from $30 to $60. I know from other sources that with soaring demand rubber production was stressed and even led to Henry Ford attempting in 1928 to build a rubber producing town in the Amazon Jungle called "Fordlandia."
Attachment AAANews112609 contains an Indianapolis News article that is extremely brief. Published November 26, it notes that the AAA's agenda included discussions about the good roads movement. This article is only two sentences long but the mention of the good roads issue is a great reminder of the issues of the day.
Attachment AAA112809 contains an article published in the Sunday, November 28, 1909, Indianapolis Star. This article sets the scene for the AAA board meeting and associated convention taking place that week. The venue was the Hotel Belmont where the agenda included the election of the board of directors for 1910 and reviews of annual reports by the committee chairmen for the good roads, legislative, touring and contest boards.
The good roads board secretary was Frderick H. Elliott who reportedly received an encouraging letter from Ralph W. Smith of the Denver Motor Club. Smith's letter reported on the enthusiasm of Colorado automobilists for the third national good roads convention to be held in St. Louis in the autumn of 1910. The Board of Public Works in Denver were expected to attend the good roads convention.
Attachment AAApresident120209 is a very brief but important research article because it reveals the board election results. Published December 2, 1909, in the Indianapolis Star the concise piece lists the names of the AAA leadership:


Articles Following the Conference...
Attachment AAA121209 contains an article published in the December 12, 1909, Indianapolis Star. This article reports on the meat of the agenda over the course of two days as "more than" 50 directors from 10 states participated in the convention sessions.
President Speare won praise for his "thorough understanding of automobile conditions in all parts of the country and his complete grasp of the work of the various boards." This general impression prompted one of the delegates to say:
"While Mr. Speare has been well known in automobile circles for many years, it has only been since his acceptance of the American Automobile Association presidency, at the resignation last year of William H. Hotchkiss to accept the insurance superintendency of the state of New York, that he has become widely known in national automobile affairs."
Consolidation of offices scattered around the country into a New York headquarters (437 Fifth Avenue) was hailed as a big step forward for improving efficiency and teamwork. While some operations were to remain in remote locations the most critical were co-located. These included:

Based on the article it appears the Touring Board was relocating from Philadelphia. The exception was the Good Roads Board headed by George Diehl which was to remain in Buffalo, New York.
The article highlights the importance of the Legislative Board in preparation for the first AAA National Legislative Convention in Washington planned for February 1910. Interestingly there was a discussion about changing the name of the Glidden Tour to the American Automobile Association national endurance run. It is unclear from the article but I assume this was part of a type of branding strategy to support the AAA's national growth strategy.
Attachment AAArules121209 contains an article originally published in the Indianapolis Star on December 12, 1909. This article discusses rules for AAA racing in the coming year, 1910. The article indicates that few changes were planned for the next season.
This was predictable because significant change could produce product development cost for the manufacturers and avoiding such an expenditure was one of the main reasons they formed the MCA, which at the time was chaired by Howard E. Coffin. Further, rule book stability meant they could better anticipate how to groom their entries to conform to whatever class they cared to compete within. Since the 1909 rules had been announced just the previous spring there had been at least some minor challenges in conforming to the classes.
Check out the four classes of cars described in the analysis of the 1909 Vanderbilt Cup for the key regulations of engine capacity and weight. The areas considered for a change center on the potential for a new class at the high end of the scale for engine capacity allowing up to 650 cubic inches instead of the 1909 cap at 600. Another Indianapolis Star article also published December 12, 1909, discussed these race car regulations and how the MCA urged the Automobile Club of America (ACA) to introduce them to an upcoming International Auto Club Conference in Paris on December 7, 1909.
As for the ongoing debate the definition of a stock car the article discusses eliminating the advantage that larger production factories had over smaller volume companies. This was true because the 1909 rules required each car maker to produce a certain number of production units (for example, 25) before that specific design would be accepted by the AAA Contest Board as a true stock car. The burden of doing so was obviously far less onerous for a factory producing 2,000 cars per year than one producing one-tenth as much. The solution was to change the rule to require the factory to prove it had produced a-yet-to-be-determined percentage of their total volume in a specific unit.
Attachment GliddenNews012210 contains an Indianapolis News article that calls out the issue of renaming the Glidden Tour. Benjamin Briscoe, president of both the MCA and the Maxwell-Briscoe Motor Car Company spoke out strongly against such a move. Most of the brief article is made up of a quote from Briscoe.
"To discard this classic touring trophy of the country at this time after it has accomplished so much good for the industry is, in my opinion, an extraordinary action and one which would be regretted not only by the motor car makers but by the public as well. Surely no automobile trophy ever competed for in this country has done so much toward the progression of the motor car industry, not excepting even the Vanderbilt Cup.
Donated in the early days when the automobile was looked upon as the rich man's toy, it created enthusiasm throughout territories through which the Glidden Tour was run, it showed the public in general that the motor car could accomplish all that was claimed for it. It had become a permanent fixture in social and business life, it has done more than anything else to sound the death knell of the horse and its relegation to the farm. It has given manufacturers a superior opportunity to learn the strong and the weak points of their cars, which could not have been learned under general touring conditions.
This, in brief, is what the Glidden Trophy has done for the industry, sport, and pastime, and it is this same famous classic trophy that certain interests would now bury in the historic archive of motordom. It is the public barometer as to what the various cars can do in endurance mountain climbing, plunging through sand or gumbo or speeding over macadam roads.
To me it sounds inconsistent for this American Automobile Association official to recommend the withdrawal of the Glidden Trophy and offer certificates in its place. Let us keep the trophy and continue it in the high place which it has earned."
Attachment AAANews122309 was published in the Indianapolis News as the magic of the Christmas Season was in full swing, December 23, 1909. This article covers several topics, beginning with Lewis Speare's continued work in New York, this time focused on the upcoming year's big endurance reliability run. It is referred to as the AAA national endurance tour, but this might have been in reference to the Glidden Tour as some forces in the AAA apparently wished to re-brand the contest. There had been numerous suggestions from around the country as regional auto clubs vied for prestige. 
Another order of business was to give the Contest Board a new name, but apparently, this never happened, but it appears it was discussed. The Contest Board Chairman, Sam Butler, was also in discussions with the Manufacturers' Contest Association (MCA) to select officers to the new Contest Board.
A variety of AAA meetings and conferences were planned in association with the New York automobile trade shows beginning New Year's Eve. A new executive committee meeting was set for January 11. George C. Diehl planned a meeting of the "Good Roads" board on January 5. Secretary F.H. Elliott planned a meeting of secretaries of state associations on January 14. Other board meetings included those for the touring contests and the legislative agenda.
The article then segues to matters of corporate investment. The headline was that Hugh Chalmers had gained full control of Chalmers-Detroit. This came about through a stock swap and a substantial bonus paid by Chalmers. The stock swap was to trade his position in the Hudson Company with other executives who had been his partners in both firms.
At the point the officers of Chalmers became:

  • Hugh Chalmers, president
  • Lee Counselman, first vice president
  • J.J. Brady, second vice president & factory manager
  • Harry W. Ford, secretary
  • C.A. Pfeffer, treasurer

The Hudson officers:

  • R.D. Chapin, president
  • H.E. Coffin, vice president
  • F.O. Bezner, secretary
  • R.B. Jackson, treasurer

In other news specific to manufacturers, there is a brief report on the status of a legal confrontation between Studebaker and EMF. Federal Judge Severans of Kalamazoo, Michigan was hearing injunction proceedings by Studebaker (South Bend) against EMF. 
Attachment AAANews010810 contains an article that reports on the close of the American Motorcar Manufacturers' Association trade show and in particular an associated meeting of AAA officers. On the agenda in that meeting was the naming of AAA committees, in particular, those of the contest and technical responsibilities. Three Chicago Auto Club executives were appointed to the technical committee: David Beecroft, F.E. Edwards, and F.C. Donald. Beecroft also served on the AAA Contest Board.
Sam Butler, as noted above, chaired the Contest Board. In addition to Beecroft, S.B. Stevens (Rome, New York); T.A. Wright (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and Joseph A. Woods (Newark, New Jersey) also served. The technical committee consisted of A.L. McMurtry (New York), who was chairman; Beecroft and Edwards; Henry Suther (Hartford, Connecticut), and Alex Churchward (Schenectady, New York). Plans called for additional tech committee appointments for the Midwest, the Pacific coast, and the South. There is also a notation that the Contest Board was to meet that coming Wednesday to consider applications for racing events from venues and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's submission is called out.
Attachment AAANews012710 contains a chart published in the January 27, 1910, Indianapolis News. This is an extremely useful reference piece. You will have to cross-reference the list with other sources telling what actually happened to know what events eventually took place. For example, all the proposed Indianapolis Motor Speedway races are listed, but we know the race meets requested for August and October never came to fruition. Whether Speedway management was denied or later found finding the resources for such an ambitious plan was simply beyond feasibility.
In fairness, what you see here is a catalog of requested events from across America and not what the Contest Board had agreed to sanction. The primary forms of auto racing in the times form categories of the events. These were reliability contests, road races, hill climbs, and track races. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway fell under the track category.
It probably says something about how "big" the country was back then that the Pacific Coast is broken out from the rest of the country. The categories there were road races, hill climbs, and tracks. It's well worth noting that the first board track for race cars, Playa Del Ray, was to be opened in the spring. Also, M.R. Guggenheim (Murry?) of the well-known wealthy family, was involved in both a track race and a reliability run centered in Seattle.
There are a few dozen contests listed and it is not productive to transcribe them here. The attachment is not perfect, but legible and well worth the effort if you are truly interested. 

AAA112109.pdf591.91 KB
MCANews111309.pdf1.99 MB
AAANews112609.pdf380.06 KB
AAA112809.pdf514.38 KB
AAApresident120209.pdf285.54 KB
AAA121209.pdf1.09 MB
AAArules121209.pdf439.56 KB
GliddenNews012210.pdf478.77 KB
AAANews122309.pdf800.48 KB
AAANews010810.pdf865.61 KB
AAANews012710.pdf216.04 KB