A.C. Webb, Premier & Russell Benefit

This race was staged on October 20, 1906 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. It was one of the best examples I have found of an auto race of this early era that is interwoven with the context of the times. For the previous three weeks one of the biggest news stories in Indianapolis was the shooting of a police officer by what the Star referred to as a "Negro." The black man's name was Jesse Coe and the officer was Charles Russell. Posses were formed and Coe, who was a fugitive for some time, was finally apprehended, taken to trial and convicted by the jury after less than an hour deliberation. Given the immense racial tension of the times when lynching and burning blacks were weekly news items and the Ku Klux Klan was revived from a hiatus dating back to the Civil War it is impossible to know the real story behind the incident. It is entirely possible that Coe acted in self-defense, but the reality is that he was convicted of first degree murder and branded as a bloodthirsty fiend.
Shortly after his death news of Russell having let his life insurance policy expire hit the local papers. The local leaders of the automotive and motorsports industry came up with the idea of running a benefit for the fallen officer's family.
These articles focus on a very interesting finding - that the big Premier racer developed to Carl Fisher's specifications ran for a record in this event. Indeed, it set a record held previously by Barney Oldfield. This is significant because conventional wisdom has it that the car was raced only once - in a handicap event in November 1905 and driven by Fisher. The car is in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum and was originally built for Fisher to drive in the 1905 Vanderbilt Cup. This finding proves the car was driven in at least two other competitive auto race events, both by a well-known driver of the day, A.C. Webb. Webb drove in the 1904 Vanderbilt Cup and won the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Trophy. I should also note that the placard in front of the car on the Museum is inaccurate on several points, not the least of which it represents the machine as an entry in the 1903 Vanderbilt Cup. The Vanderbilt Cup did not exist in 1903, it was started in 1904. Nonetheless there is irrefutable evidence the car was built for the 1905 race.

webbpremierraceresults.pdf6.65 MB
WebbPremier101806.pdf2.84 MB
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