Brick Paving Underway - 1909

The article in attachment IMSdeath091909 was originally published on September 19, 1909 in the Indianapolis Star. The article is an update on the brick paving work going on at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that reportedly began September 16.
The article asserts that because of this project the Speedway would become the first race course in the world to be paved. This is not true as the Brooklands track built in England in 1907 was paved with concrete. It is almost certain the Speedway was the first track in the world to be paved with brick and the first American race track to be paved at all. This point serves as a reminder to take caution in accepting single sources and especially newspapers as conclusive evidence of historical fact. They are, quite simply, many times wrong.
The article also stresses that the paving would make the track safer and faster. Undoubtedly both assertions proved accurate. The headline of the article, however, overstates the case for safety. Stating, "Disqualify Death at Auto Speedway," this again illustrates another reality of the newspapers of the era. Frequently they reported in absolutes which is always a mistake. Improving safety, yes, eliminating the spector of death at the Brickyard has yet to be achieved as dozens of drivers, mechanics, crew members and spectators have lost their lives on the grounds in race related incidents.
An additional point of the article is interesting and can be cited as yet another contribution the Speedway made to the development of the automobile and even the infrastructure that supported it. This is that many engineers and city managers pondering projects for road improvement were looking carefully at the Speedway as a kind of laboratory to learn about paving.
As noted in the September 16 article linked to above representatives of the National Paving Brick Manufacturer's Association actively participated in the brick laying project. They lended their expert counsel with great interest in learning from the results. William P. Blair was an Indianapolis-based representative of the organization and was paraphrased in the article as having said that the project had the keen interest of municipalities around the globe.
As also reported in the September 16 article (link in first paragraph) the Wabash Clay Factory of Veedersburg, Indiana won the brick supply contract. Speedway management purchased 3.5 million bricks along with thousands of barrels of cement at a cost of $30,000. The estimated total cost of the improvements to the track was more than $180,000 making the approxiate investment in the track, including upgrades to the garages, grandstands and aerodrome something just under $700,000.
The article reports that "the contract for half the distance has been let to Frank Meredith of Terre Haute," which I assume is in reference to the actual construction work. The Speedway was guarded during the event by a team of police officers to protect against vandals.
Speedway management still harbored some unrealistic goals. While they by this time had recognized that a 24 hour race was not feasible they still were working toward an aviation meet October 14 through 16. Speedway Director of Contests Ernie Moross was pushing to have the track ready for auto racing prior to the November 9 through 14 race meet at the new two-mile Speedway in Atlanta. Moross was concerned that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway would be displaced by Atlanta as the record-setting course for America. The Speedway would fall short of this goal and not open for record busting until the December time trials.
W.T. Blackburn (Paris, Illinois); Major Middleton (Indianapolis) and M.W. Blair of St. Louis were listed as experts supervising the paving work. It is not clear if there was any familial relationship between William Blair and M.W. Blair but the article reports that William was instrumental in convincing Speedway Founder and President Carl Fisher to select brick as the pavement. The article also indicates that part of the business case for paving the course was that the constant oiling to tamp down dust was expensive.
Interestingly, track officials, according to the article, believed once the brick paving was in place that races could be conducted even in the rain. Apparently officials also intended to sell permits to everyday citizens that would allow them to bring their street cars to the track and cut laps as fast as they could to "give vent to the pent-up speed craze which is imbedded in so many automobile owners."
Also interesting is more detail concerning a new "aerodrome" being constructed in the infield. This was in addition to and not a replacement for one that was built to support the National Champonship Balloon races held earlier that year in June. Although the dimensions of the first building are not provided this article does report the information on the second structure. It was 350 feet long and 110 feet high. The new aerodrome would reportedly shelter dirigibles and airplanes while the older building would be used for the standard "spherical" balloons.
As for the track new features believed to enhance safety were touted. At the outer edge a "curbing" was reportedly planned although it is not clear if this would be more accurately described as a retaining wall. Also, the spectator fences were set further back from the track with sand traps to slow errant car were positioned between the edge of the running surface and any area where a spectator may stand.

IMSdeath091909.pdf1.13 MB