The Battle For An Air Show

The attached articles concern the concerted effort by Indianapolis Motor Speedway executive management and the city of Indianapolis to bring the 1910 international air show to the track. Due to the success of American Glenn Curtiss at the Rheims, France air show in 1909 the US won the right to host the event. Speedway President Carl Fisher was a huge advocate of aeronautics and was positioning the track as the top aviation grounds in the country. In the end, their bid would fail as the event was held in New York. Fisher and his team did host their own meet in June 1910.
Attachment IMSaeroNews011510 contains a January 15, 1910, Indianapolis News article (titled, "Plans Trial Flight At Motor Speedway") that highlights the enthusiasm for aeronautics in Indianapolis at the time. Charles Crout, the chief mechanic for airplane enthusiast J.W. Curzon, planned to fly a plane himself from the new brick Speedway. It was Curzon's airplane, the first constructed in Indianapolis.
Crout had recently completed building a new engine for the plane weighing 85 pounds and producing 24 horsepower. This was reported to be 12 pounds lighter than the famous Curtiss engine. Plans for the production of the engine for sale to those pursuing experimental projects. The motor's first installation was to be in Curzon's second airplane. His first was known as the Curzon-Farman.
The new plane was reported to be larger than the first and, apparently, infrastructure suited to launching the plane had to be installed in the Speedway's infield. The plane was said to be 28 feet long and 24 feet wide. The wings were five feet wide with a surface of 370 square feet.
The article then begins a description of a "Wind Wagon." It consisted of an automobile chassis stripped of all gears, transmission and drive train. It was powered by an airplane engine driving a propeller that pushed air to put the car in motion. Crout wanted to arrange a race between two Wind Wagons and proposed this to a gentleman by the name of Q.O. Noblitt, who was referred to as an "aeronautic expert." He was reported to be the man behind the construction of an airplane for Fisher at the Fisher Automobile Company. He also built an airplane engine for George Bumbaugh, complete with propeller and carburetor, which weighed 120 pounds and produced 35 horsepower.
Crout claimed the distinction of driving the first Wind Wagon in the United States. He presented it as an experiment before the Aeronautic Society of New York at Morris Park in July 1909. The exhibition was performed with a Wind Wagon built for Julian P. Thomas, a famous international balloon race pilot. 
Attachment IMSaeroNews011710 contains an Indianapolis News article published January 17, 1910, that concisely spells out the American aviation meets planned for the year and the cities vying to host them. The events included national and international meets for airplanes and balloons - I believe that meant a total of four events. The national contests were to precede the more prestigious international events and serve as preliminary meets.
The organizer was the Federated Aero Clubs of America, which was based in St. Louis. The Indiana Aero Club was a member and representing them was Ernie Moross, the competition director at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Moross was planning to travel to St. Louis to represent the Indiana Aero Club and the Speedway in a planning meeting the upcoming Monday.
The cities of Baltimore and St. Louis were regarded to be the primary competitors. Neither had an "aviation ground," and Moross was proposing the Speedway, which was pretty reasonable given the aircraft of those days. The hitch was that the competitors were offering "big guarantees," whereas Indiana wanted to arrange a deal where the national club was to get a cut of gate receipts. Moross and other Hoosier planners were also counting on the Indianapolis business community to step up with fundraising.
Attachment IMSaeroNews012010 contains an Indianapolis News article published January 20, 1910. This article casts the spotlight on the Indianapolis merchants and their willingness to invest in the event to win the bidding war. The article notes that Speedway management had never asked for outside investment in their events but that the airshows were expected to be of such scale with broad appeal that it was more than reasonable to do so.
A big part of the appeal was the predicted advancements in aircraft over the next several months leading up to the projected date of the international airplane event, which was anticipated in August. The required guarantee was $50,000 and the idea was that the various business owners would purchase blocks of tickets. In addition, the suggestion was being floated that merchants purchase $25,000 in bonds to cover awards for events such as fastest mile, longest flights, greatest distance flights and more.
The optimistic view was that attendance at the Speedway would be so tremendous it would easily cover all costs. They even proposed sharing 50 percent of the gate receipts with the St. Louis governors. 
Interestingly, the article suggests that New York was prepared to offer several hundred thousand dollars (the attachment article is not completely legible, but the figure looks to be $400,000). This was dismissed due to New York's proximity to the ocean. Apparently, other coastal cities had been rejected as well, so we assume Baltimore, mentioned in the previous Indianapolis News article, had been turned away as well. This seems understandable for the balloons, but not the airplanes where a pilot's ability to steer his craft was relatively advanced.
Also, Los Angeles reportedly hosted an airshow the previous year. Regardless, the stated preference for safety was for inland cities. An example was St. Louis, which had put up $100,000 to host an aviation show the previous year. Both of these shows were regarded as successful, but neither city had a facility like the Speedway to accommodate spectators and collect gate receipts.
Speedway officials were optimistic the track, the grandstand seating capacity of 25,000, the spacious infield, with the aerodrome "Nest," gave them the edge. Fisher and his team planned to call upon other area merchants to prevail upon the Merchant's Association and the Commercial Club for support. The Federated Aero Clubs Association planned a meeting for bid presentation on January 29.
Attachment IMSaeroNews012410 contains an Indianapolis News article published January 24, 1910. This article is testimony that a city's business community understood "economic impact," even if the label was not part of the everyday business lexicon of the age. It announces that Indianapolis businesses had gotten on board with the funding effort. Fisher and Moross were tallying up the commitments before heading to St. Louis - by train, of course. 
The Overland Automobile Company had already committed to 200 tickets. The Indianapolis Merchant's Association had called a meeting for the coming Thursday to rally the business community. The Commercial Club and the Manufacturers' Association announced that they would press their membership to pony up. 
The  Indianapolis News, January 29, 1910, article (see attachment IMSaero012910) is very brief but serves to continue the momentum of the historical research. It is interesting to note that while the previous articles referenced the Federated Aero Clubs of America as an established entity, it was at the time of the article's publication a proposal for forming the organization. 
The established governance of the Aero Club of America with its president, Cortlandt F. Bishop, leading the charge, was inspecting sites suitable for airplane (referred to as "aeroplane" in the day) flights. From the article, we can assume Bishop was impressed by what he saw in St. Louis.
Nonetheless, nine aero clubs were still in play. These were the clubs of Pennsylvania, Indiana, New England, Rochester, Des Moines, Peoria, Kansas City, and, of course, St. Louis as well as the Aero Club of America.
Attachment IMSaeroNews013110 contains an Indianapolis News article published January 31, 1910. Here we learn that Fisher and Moross returned from St. Louis to announce that Indianapolis was the favored city to host the big international airshows. This article says ten aero clubs were represented in the St. Louis meeting, but only three submitted bids. 
Aero Club of America (New York) officials decided to keep the bidding open until April 1. The other cities bidding for the events were St. Louis and Washington, D.C. Fisher's bid was the reported guarantee of $50,000 in cash with an additional $25,000 set aside for prizes. The Speedway sweetened the deal by offering the governing body 50 percent of the gate receipts. Plans called for a four-day event, despite early reports that the meets could run between six and ten days.
Fisher, along with Allen R. Hawley (New York) and A.B. Lambert (St. Louis), was appointed to the aero contest board. Moross said that the Speedway's offer was the only one that had a specific amount of cash. This, combined with the Speedway venue, cast Indianapolis in a favorable light.
The February 7, 1910, Indianapolis Star article (attachment AeroMeet020710) is a nice follow-up to a previous one in the same paper. It reports that the "Federated Aero Clubs" organization had recently met in St. Louis to discuss the international show venues for both ballooning and airplanes. There were three cities under consideration at the time but with an April 1, 1910, deadline set for "re-opening of bids" numerous others were anticipated. The three cities in play at the time were Indianapolis, St. Louis and Washington D.C.
The article reports that Speedway President Carl Fisher - who was also serving as the president of the Aero Club of Indiana - and Ernie Moross, the Speedway's director of contests had developed and filed a bid with the national governing body. As part of the bid, the Speedway offered a financial guarantee of $50,000 along with prizes of $25,000 and a percentage of gate receipts. Washington had submitted a bid with a $100,000 guarantee.
Neither of these bids impressed the national body and that triggered the "re-opening" mentioned above. Because, according to the article, the organizing body rejected any notion that mile tracks or fairgrounds were suitable venues, the conclusion drawn in this report is that the Speedway was the only logical choice.
According to the article, the dates selected for the meet were October 18 through November 2. This was only four days as opposed to the Rheims, France 10-day meet in 1909. The plan called for a national aviation meet in advance of the international meet as a kind of qualification event to select American representatives. The contest committee for the national aerial events was composed of Fisher, Albert Bond Lambert (president of the St. Louis Aero Club) and Allen Hawley of New York (an official with the Aero Club of America).

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IMSaeroNews011510.pdf794.16 KB
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