Butler Boosts Glidden - 1910

Originally published in the Sunday, March 20, 1910 Indianapolis Star, this article was part of  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.
All the articles in the special section shared news and expanded on issues related to the automobile industry, including competition. This particular article shares the views of Samuel M. Butler, the chairman of the American Automobile Association (AAA) Contest Board, on the 1910 Glidden Tour. The tour was a reliability contest where manufacturers and private entries ran at controlled speed for over 2,000 miles across regions of the United States.
Many of the roadways they used were largely undeveloped and presented the challenges motorists frequently encountered: steep upgrades, loose gravel, mud, crevices and even precipices at the side of mountainous roads. The central purpose was to demonstrate that industry product was not only reliable but up to the challenge of the toughest traveling conditions. This is an example of industry-wide collaboration to stimulate primary demand for an emerging product category still gaining marketplace acceptance.
The competition was more of a rally than a high speed competition. Demerits were assigned for mechanical failures or even excessive speed. Drivers did have to maintain the speed required to conform to a schedule as penalties were assessed for late arrivals at check points.
Founder Charles Jasper Glidden begain his cross-country trips in 1902, even venturing overseas. He formalized the Glidden Tour in 1905 with a trophy and the annual competition continued through 1913. By 1910 questions about enthusiasm for continuing the tour began to creep into the industry conversation. This article presents Butler's conviction that the tour was an essential event on the annual automobilists' calendar. Much of the artilce includes excerpts from a letter he authored.
"Shortly after my election as chairman of the contest board I was asked if the American Association would ever hold another reliability run, or, as it is more generally known, Glidden Tour. I replied that the annual reliability run of the AAA has become an institution of motoring, a contests of such importance that the manufacturers will not even consider its abolition. The Glidden Tour, more than any other endurance contest held in the United States, brings the principal makes of automobiles before the owners and prospective owners of the country in direct review. It places the standard makes of cars in a competition of reliability which shows the whole country just what those cars are capabile of doing. The tour has always been one of national scope, as far as the entries are concerned, as its magnitude has made the findings of the committee in charge of very appreciable value to the motor buying public."
Other comments from Butler asserts that manufacturers were in full support of the Glidden Tour (a bit of irony here as Butler would die in a Glidden accident the following year). He cites the success of Pierce-Arrow and Chalmers in the previous year's event. This leads to another point concerning the promotional value of the Glidden Tour. That was that in those days geographic markets in different regions of America were still developing. Larger metropolitan areas had embraced the car as a necessary applicance of their lives but many in the countryside were still yet to come into the fold. The planned route for 1910 was to showcase the automobile in southern states. Check out a comment by Butler on this point.
"But there is one other great advantage from the entrants' point of view. The Glidden tour is each year so mapped as to carry the contesting cars into a new market, relatively speaking. Last year, the Glidden Tour opened up a vast new territory to the industry; this year the route will be laid out with the same end in view. I really believe that the South and the Southwest hold vast possibilities for the automobile industry. This territory has, as yet, been very little developed. The country through which the 1910 tour will pass is rich and is ready for the automobile."
Note that in the same March 20 special section there were articles about private citizens and their challenges in individual road trips. These were not directly related to the formal Glidden Tour but share the common goal of exploring and assessing roads as well as testing vehicle reliability.

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