Brickyard Home to Auto Club

The attached articles were originally published during May 1910 in the Indianapolis Star.
In attachment FisherClub050110 the article is a follow-up to an April 29 Star article reporting on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's push to build a club house at the grounds for members of an automobile fellowship. Note that the article in the attachment to this entry was written by Will H. Brown, vice president with the Overland Automobile Company.
Brown's message is perhaps a little more developed than the April article in that it seems to advocate the formation of an Indianapolis Automobile Association that could be a conduit with a newly formed state club which in turn worked in concert with the American Automobile Association (AAA). A.R. Kling headed the state organization. Brown cites the example of the Indianapolis Automobile Trade Association (IATA) as how an organization of people of like interests can accomplish much to their mutual benefit. The IATA had been the center of gravity for the Indianapolis Automobile Shows and a variety of reliability runs such as those to French Lick.
Apparently the IATA had been behind pulling together a meeting the previous Thursday night at the Denison Hotel's Flat Tire Club rooms to discuss the need for such a Hoosier club. At the head of the list of topics was the location of the club's headquarters and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was seen as the logical venue. Ernie Moross, contest director at the Speedway attended the meeting and encouraged movement in that direction. He reportedly shared that the track's Founder and President Carl Fisher was ready to build the structure and have it completed by the May 27 national championship races.
Fisher apparently believed that membership should require a "nominal" fee that would include such benefits as being able to drive on the Brickyard at no additional cost. A single membership would also come bundled with the same for the Indiana Aero Club. That would provide complimentary tickets to all the Speedway's aviation meets for the year. The article indicates that the IATA officers may have held other opinions about membership and planned to talk with Fisher.
The article also reports that the leaders involved planned another Denison Hotel meeting the following Tuesday. By that time the committee formed to meet with Fisher would have a report on progress as a result of that engagement. Among the issues of the day - as stated by the article - was the push for good roads, the registration of automobiles and more thoughtful traffic laws.
Attachment FisherAutoClub050410 reports back on outcomes of the Tuesday night meeting and the work completed in the days leading up to it. Some of the biggest news coming out of the meeting was the election of former Indianapolis Mayor Charles Bookwalter as the new auto association's president. A slate of officers and a board of directors was also named. In addition to Bookwalter, they were:

The officers of the organization were "ex-officio" members of the board. They were only temporary assignments, however, as plans called for permanent officer assignments by June 1. 
The other big news confirmed the agreement of the men that the associations headquarters should be located at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The cost of its construction was put at $15,000. Addison "Ad" F. Miller, the manager of the city's English Hotel and Opera House, was appointed the manager of this facility as well.
The leaders announced that evening that annual dues were set at $25, entitling members to privileges and perquisites. Fifty men registered as members on the spot. A second call for action was for everyone present to get behind a membership drive with the goal of 1,000 sign-ups over the following half month. The plan also called for club house construction to start immediately. Since it was funded by the registration effort the group beamed with optimism. The desire was to have the building completed by May 27 for the beginning of the National Championship race meet.
In another sign of their optimism the group reportedly believed that even business owners who did not have automobiles would become members because they would see the economic value to the community at large. Fred Willis was appointed chair of the membership drive committee. During the meeting praise was heaped on Speedway management for their generosity in hosting the club house. The one challenge to the Speedway's offer came from officials of the Premier Company, but they later withdrew their concerns. Originally they were worried about the distance of the track from downtown - about five miles. However the prevailing wisdom was that the Speedway was at the top of the list of attractions out-of-town visitors wanted to see.
The description of the building plans is interesting. The house was to have two stories and a basement. The basement was for a gymnasium complete with lockers and bathing facilities. The first floor plan called for a cafe with kitchen and dining room. A reception room was to consume half the first floor. The second floor was to have a ballroom and other meeting rooms. Furnishings were to be elegant and the heating system included grates in every room. Interestingly, the outer structure was to be brick from the blocks left over from the track's famous paving project.
The idea was for the club house to be located in a tree grove that stood at the north end of the track. The south side of the house, the architect believed, would provide a view of the entire track. The design called for verandas to extend all around the building on both floors.
Despite the announcement that construction would ensue without delay the article implied progress was contingent on securing the 1,000 memberships in 60 days. This may have meant that if the target was not achieved the price of construction could exceed the promised $15,000 price tag mentioned earlier. This however is not clear.
The Speedway agreed to provide complimentary admission to members through the $1 main gate, maintain the club and pay salaries of the custodian of the club and a full-time secretary. Part of this person's responsibilities were to coordinate with the AAA. Moross broke down the funding to support these programs which were to be derived from the $25 membership fee. For each membership, the revenue would be divided in the following manner to cover these cost elements:

  • $19 for complimentary admissions
  • $5 for club expenses (aside from club house construction)
  • $1 for AAA affiliation

A key membership benefit was track access for members to drive their cars on the track at no charge. This privilege was available to the general public at $10 annually. The association also expected support from other business groups such as the Commerical Club and the Board of Trade in the membership drive.
An additional feature of the construction for the club facilities was a plan to construct a 100-foot long garage. It was promised that it would include all the features necessary to work on the cars. 
The article quotes Frank Staley of the Studebaker Company who provided the keynote of the Tuesday night meeting. 
"In my mind this is the only opportunity we have to organize an automobile club in Indianapolis. The only logical place for the house is at the Speedway. That place is known better farther away from Indianapolis than at home. Everywhere you go you hear the question, 'How are things progressing at the big Speedway?' It is the only natural result of something  that has been given international publicity. We value it lightly here compared to its real value as the framemaker for Indianapolis. Every man connected with the automobile business, when he comes to Indianapolis to visit says, 'I want to see the Speedway.' Let's give him a chance to go and see it and be entertained at an automobile club second to none in America."
Attachment IMSdirections050810 contains an article that discusses some early ideas for mobilizing club organizers. Two ideas that came to the surface concerned road signs between cities of the region and the promotion of business through a process that today would be considered littering the countryside. (Note that in this article there was a supporting image of an artist's rendering of the proposed club house. Unfortunately I did not notice in copying this article and I did not acquire the compelte image.)
Routes to and from every city with a radius of 400 miles were to be marked with sign posts to help motorists connect one point to the other. The routes involved were between Indianapolis and Louisville, Cincinnati, Toledo, Columbus, Detroit, Chicago and others unnamed. The group also planned to distribute road maps to people planning to attend the Brickyard's racing extravaganza at the end of May.
Another big idea (the one referenced above as "littering") was that in the ballooning events from the Speedway planned for later that year ballast bags would be filled with business cards from establishments in the area instead of sand. When released over the side of a basket the hope was that they would descend to the ground dispersing their promotional messages. Somehow, even given the context of the times, this seems less than wise for several reasons.
Such work would reportedly not commence until the group had reached their initial membership goal of 1,000. The business card ballast idea was pending a review of the Indianapolis Trade Association, presumably the Indianapolis Aubtomobile Trade Association.
Another point mentioned in the article was that the group would marshal its resources to lend a hand in the fight to get a national licensing system initiated. Apparently, at the time, anyone driving their car across state lines was required to stop in each state and purchase a license. The article reports that the group would sharpen its focus on priorities at an upcoming meeting the following Tuesday night at the Fisher Automobile Company offices.
Attachment AutoClub051110 (published May 11, 1910 in the Indianapolis Star) contains a relatively brief article with another update on the association's efforts to recruit members - a campaign that was beginning to sound like rougher sledding than originally forecast. In the parlance and custom of the male-dominated era the article reveals that the group planned a "mass meeting smoker." From what I can discern "smokers" were business networking affairs that intertwined socializing with agendas of some purpose. The men were provided cigars - or perhaps brought their own - and lit up, probably after dinner.
This gesture was probably another of myriad subtle opportunities to impress or trump your colleagues with the quality of brand you could flash. Regardless smokers were a hallmark of manliness and attendance somehow translated into the attendees' importance. The purpose on this occasion was a drive for membership of the new organization with its name revealed in this article as the Indianapolis Auto and Aero Club. This name, with the word "aero" included, is a reflection of the state of motorized propelled technology of the time. The motors and chains that powered both cars and planes were essentially the same and both industries overlapped as people below free-flowed between them with little resistance. The decision also reflected the Speedway's desire to position itself as a mutli-purpose facility.
Plans for the smoker were announced by Former Mayor Bookwalter at another meeting the previous night - so the cynic might have cited that meeting as a meeting to plan a meeting. Bookwalter and his supporters were clearly taking the stance that their new organization was critical to expanding the Hoosier capital's economy. This was a message they apparently targeted to other groups of business and civic leaders. 
Interestingly a highlighted point of Bookwalter's address to the group was that he thought it essential for the new club's leaders to "guard with keen care its character and make it an ideal club at which every man will be glad to take his family and all visitors to this city." Given that he felt it was important to call out this message I have to wonder what kind of potentially off-color dialogue or activities were typical of at least some professional organizations in this overtly male-dominated era.
One of the topics discussed at the meeting was the posting of road signs. These were described as "signs of iron" to be erected along all roads. They were to be "about nine feet high and made to be readable at night." Bookwalter pushed for legislation to enact laws against vandalizing the signs. Also, the group reportedly had reached an agreement with the Chicago Motor Club to meet each other half way on signs directing drivers to their cities. Another discussion point was the activation of car dealers around the state to recruit new members. A.R. Kling, Frank Moore and F.I. Willis were asked to lead this initative. 
The article in attachment IMSaero051310 is extremely brief but notes that the newly formed club was reaching out statewide for membership. The group hatched this scheme during a meeting at the offices of the Fisher Automobile Company. Campaign managers were appointed for the more populous cities around the state: Terre Haute, Evansville, Ft. Wayne, South Bend and other unnamed locations. The membership at that point is reported to be 250, about 25 percent of goal. The city managers were to report progress to Secretary Willis.
Attachment AutoClub052210 from the May 22, 1910 Indianapolis Star provides a final update of the month. Despite its optomistic headline ("Auto Club List Growing") announcing membership growth the article reports that registrations were actually disappointing. The reason cited is that this was a busy season for the men primarily involved, which it was as in these days spring meant a time for people to consider outings. That meant car purchases. Also, automobiles, rarely used in winter due to the tendancy of engine fluids to freeze and damage them, were typically drained and stored. Spring meant temperatures above freezing and time to hit the roads. Those who did not own cars yet were reminded once again as warmer months unfolded that there were newly increased options for adventure made accessible by the automobile.

FisherClub050110.pdf1.02 MB
FisherAutoClub050410.pdf1.14 MB
IMSdirections050810.pdf600.4 KB
AutoClub051110.pdf208.19 KB
IMSaero051310.pdf260.15 KB
AutoClub052210.pdf372.6 KB