Carl Fisher Wins Hill Climb - 1909

These articles focus on a "sociability run" conducted October 2 & 3, 1909. The event was for amateur drivers even though Indianapolis Motor Speedway President and Founder Carl Fisher was entered. Fisher had a respectable driving resume and had competed in auto races for several years prior to this event.
The primary contest was an endurance run, a type of competition that was popular in those days of the early automobile proving its reliability. The classic example was the Glidden Tour. A secondary competition was a hill climb time trial held at the conclusion of the first day of the endurance run.
Attachment100109 contains an Indianapolis Star article first published on October 1, 1909, that previews the two contests. The endurance run had 25 entries to traverse a challenging course from Indianapolis to Mudlavia Springs. The article reports that a silver trophy was up for grabs in the hill climb. There were four classes of cars for that contest reported as follows:

  • Class A, cars listed at $3,000 or more.
  • Class B, cars listed at $2,001 to $3,000.
  • Class C, cars listed at $1,001 to $2,000.
  • Class D, cars listed at $1000 or under.

The "Pilot" car, the car that would effectively pace the field throughout the endurance contest, was reported to be a Stoddard-Dayton with B.G. Saltzgaber (he was a scorer at the first automobile races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway) at the wheel. Curiously, in a far more superstitious era, the machine was listed as "No. 13."
The article provides a list of cars and drivers for the overall event. Note that in addition to Fisher, Indianapolis Motor Speedway co-founder Arthur C. Newby was entered to drive one his National Motor Vehicle Company cars. Newby was a National executive. These are listed by class:
Class A

Class B

Class C

Class D

Attachment FisherWins100309 contains an Indianapolis Star article summarizing the first day of the amateur "sociability" endurance run from Indianapolis to Mudlavia. The article, published October 3, 1909, concerned events of the previous day.
The lead of the article focused on an accident to the No. 13 pilot car, the Stoddard-Dayton driven by B.G. Saltzgaber, secretary of the Mutual Printing Company of Indianapolis. Traveling with Satzgaber was Frank Willis of the Willis-Holcomb Automobile Company as well as a gentleman by the name of Don Herff. The accident noted that the men had defied the "No. 13 hoodoo."
The pilot car had not gotten far along in their journey (just nine miles north of Crawfordsville) when apparently Saltzgaber lost control on the "soft gravel" road. The machine bounced over a two-foot embankment, smashed through a barbed wire fence and barrel rolled once to land right side up. The three men were cast out of the car but amazingly none were seriously injured. Saltzgaber did suffer "a bad gash" and Willis' shoulder was bruised.  Herff, described as young, ended up underneath the car but crawled out unscathed.
Aside from the pilot car incident, the day was a perfect outing of good fun. The article reported that 21 cars competed in the event and were supported by an extra supply car and another one for officials. The cars had departed from University Park in Indianapolis at 7 AM. The first car to depart, the Packard of Harry Ardney (spelled "Archey" and I believe that is the correct spelling) was also the first to arrive at Mudlavia at 9:33 AM for a running time of two hours and six minutes. Fred Wiltshire in the Packard 18 was second with a time of 2:38.5 and Carl Fisher third in his Stoddard-Dayton at 2:58. Mrs. Frank Scluessler (note that her name is spelled differently in the two articles) was the first of the female drivers to arrive in Mudlavia with an elapsed driving time of 3:52.5. Paul Smith's time of 3:13 was given special notice because his Empire machine only packed 20 HP.
The roads were reported to be in good shape albeit dusty. October through Wabash Valley was called "picturesque scenery." During the afternoon after all the drivers had arrived Hotel Manager Robert Kramer hosted a reception in the resort's big dance hall.
Kramer's influence over the entire event was extensive as evidenced by his role in setting the criteria for awarding the winning prize for the endurance run. This was a silver cup offered by the Warner Instrument Company. The race did not go to the swiftest but to the driver recording a "proper average." Obviously, safe driving was a consideration. It was Kramer who established the time. In the end, the winner proved to be a bit of a surprise as the prize came to a woman, Katrina Fertig.
The article reports that the feature of the afternoon was the hill climb, dubbed the "Mudlavia Silver Cup" offered by Robert B. Kramer, manager of the Mudlavia Springs Resort. Directly beside the hotel was a hill with a 1,030-foot rise and nine percent grade with sharp curves deemed an ideal test of skills. The article called the hill a "natural amphitheater" which provided an excellent vantage point for a reported 600 spectators.
Carl Fisher was the overall winner. The article provides good detail on the results (driver, car, time in seconds) of the event:
Class A

  1. Carl Fisher, Stoddard-Dayton, 00:20
  2. J.T. Alfree, Stearns, 00:22.50
  3. L.M. Wainwright, Locomobile, 00:27.5

Class B

  1. E.H. Wilson, Knox, 00:22.75
  2. Miss Katherine Fertig, Premier, 00:27.25
  3. Mrs. Frank Sleussler, Premier, 00:35.25

Class C

  1. Dr. P.H. Keys, Buick, 00:25.50
  2. Herbert Herff, Oakland, 00:25.75

Class D

  1. John Hayden, Maxwell, 00:28.75
  2. F.I. Willis, Hupmobile, 00:43.50


  1. Carl Fisher, Stoddard-Dayton, 00:19.60
  2. Dr. P.H. Keys, Buick, 00:25.60
  3. E.H. Wilson, Knox, 00:23.80
  4. John Hayden, Maxwell, 00:30.00

Attachment WomenNews092909 contains an article in advance of the run. It focused on the participation of women drivers. They were referred to as "Indianapolis Daughters."

  • Miss Catherine Fertig (noted as Katrina above, so I suspect this is a misspelling)
  • Miss Elizabeth Love
  • Mrs. Frank Schussler
  • Miss Sedwick

Fertig is billed as the winner of several races in the Indianapolis area, although none are specifically cited. Her car is described as a big Premier touring car. Love, described as a teenager, had impressed observers with a perfect score in the recent French Lick Reliability Run. She registered a perfect score - do demerits. Schussler was entered in a Premier Clubman car. Sedwick was the daughter of Frank Sedwick, who is referred to as a well-known driver. It was her first competitive event and she was slated to drive her father's car.
The event was scheduled for the next Saturday on the calendar, starting from University Square at 7 am. Twenty-Five cars were entered and they were expected to transport 140 passengers. The run to Mudlavia Springs, which was five miles beyond Attica, Indiana ran through Crawfordsville, New Richmond, and Newtown. It totaled 86.75 miles. The planned return trip took a different route through Lafayette, Frankfort, and Lebanon and was 104.3 miles. They were to leave Mudlavia at 7:30 Sunday morning and reach Indianapolis by 2:30 pm. 
The article leads with what is now a historical reference by mentioning Mrs. Kenneth R. Otis of Cleveland who apparently was on a circuitous route from Pittsburgh to Upper Sandusky, Ohio. Traveling with her was a courier bearing a message from President Taft to the president of the Alaska-Yukon exhibition. This development raised the profile of women drivers in the era, or so the article asserts.

hillclimb100109.pdf614.83 KB
FisherWins100309.pdf616.31 KB
WomenNews092909.pdf461.99 KB