Auto Show Better Than Ever!

This article was originally published in the Sunday, March 20, 1910, Indianapolis Star. It was part of several articles in a special supplemental section about the upcoming March 28 Indianapolis Automobile Show presented by the Indianapolis Automobile Trade Association (IATA). Key features of the event were the Floral Parade, contests at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and concluding banquet at the Denison Hotel.
The article stresses the unique quality of the Indianapolis event in that unlike other car shows the displays were not in a centralized location but distributed across dealership showrooms around the city - all decorated for the occasion. The writer stresses that this show benefited from its organizers having attended the auto events in Chicago and New York and bringing lessons learned back to the Hoosier capital.
Anticipation for the event is conveyed in this excerpt: "It is an event which interests and inveigles people from all parts of Indiana, all eager to pay homage to King Automobile, which will reign supreme on its lofty throne for the coming week, commanding the salaams and kotows of its admiring army of good and faithful subjects. Indianapolis ozone will fairly bubble and teem with that most contagious of diseases, especially at this time of the year, motorphobia. There will be gas-wagon chatter jargoned out by the hour, even the uninterested ones will catch the spirit of the day and fall in line with the great parade."
Note, too, that the current United States President Howard Taft is quoted saying, "We are living in an automobile age." The article insists the wisdom of his remark would never be more appreciated than during the week of festivities in the city.
The article provides an interesting history lesson when it reflects on the first New York Automobile Show held at Madison Square Garden ten years prior. In this landmark event there were but 30 exhibitors and visitors were reportedly skeptics. According to the article managers of the show constructed a small track around the perimeter of the tradeshow floor. Cars reportedly stalled at times igniting laughter and taunts among onlookers. The industry had come a long way by 1910.
Another excerpt paints a proud and optimistic picture: "The history of the automobile industry though short, reads like a wonder book and is so well known and appreciated by the average person that it perhaps needs but little mention at this time. This industry has grown beyond the expectation of the pioneers of the motor car business and has become today a gigantic industrial exposition. It is to marvel at the wealth, at the art, the brains and the natural resources of this great country, all represented under one roof and worked out on one great principle: Rapid, reliable and simplified transportation."
The article reports that a canvass of the factories indicated that American manufacturers planned to produce about 250,000 cars within the subsequent 12 months. In a quote reflecting the language of the times, the writer says, "These figures surely make it look as though it will be 'Old Dobbin' for the barn in the near future..." Indeed, the Horseless Age was in full swing.
Among several factors - not the least of which was the self-evident and compelling value of shortening the time required for travel - for the increase in demand for automobiles was the acceptance among farmers. Those in the countryside were well known for their disdain for the self-propelled vehicles during the automobile's early years. Seen as disruptive due mostly to their noise but also smoke and splattering oil, the horse-terrifying contraptions also symbolized an elite social status few farmers could demonstrate. A growing entry of offerings at attainable price points eased the sting to egos of those less well-heeled financially.
The article notes new features to cars as they continued to evolve. One very interesting point is that during this year more American cars were exhibited with the steering wheel and associated levers located on the left-hand side of the car which was a change. Previously the driver's steering wheel was on the right. A reason for the change suggests that passengers sitting beside the driver could exit the vehicle on the curb side of the street not stepping into harm's way of oncoming traffic. Additionally, the roads at the time were for the most part unpaved and frequently muddy. In these days many of these passengers were female and the article suggests that this was another example of car companies considering the preferences of women in selling their product to households.
Much of this article borrows heavily from another appearing in the very same edition of the newspaper. This was the piece carrying automotive pioneer Charles Duryea who with brother Frank developed America's first automobile. In discussing the trend of longer wheelbases, engine cylinders cast "en bloc," smaller engines, lighter cars, wider doors, longer springs, larger wheels, wider tires and more leg room some of the sentences are verbatim copies of the Duryea article. The "en bloc" engine design was a milestone in evolution as piston cylinders began the transition from individually cast units to orafices integrated cast within a single block. This allowed for a more compact assembly which accounted for longer wheelbase designs and the commensurately increased leg room.
Attention to the details of style and asthetics is also noted. Among the features cited are "torpedo" body styling, hand-buffed, multi-color leather upholstery and "toy" tonneaus. Tops over passengers and windshields were becoming popular at this time. Horns, head lamps and the acetylene gas canisters (like Prest-O-lite) that fueled the lights were transitioning from options to standard features.

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