Chicago Auto Show - December 1907

Apparently there were two major auto shows held in Chicago during 1907 - one in February, the other in December. Attached are four articles from the Indianapolis Star and two from the Indianapolis News referring to the December event.
Attachment ChiAutoNews120407 has an Indianapolis News report from the third day of the show, December 4. Windy, snowy conditions did not deter people from attending. In fact, the article seems to suggest people took refuge from the weather by going inside to see the displays. The doors were open for 12 hours and the report indicates that the officials of the New York auto show held in Grand Central Palace and Madison Square Garden were reportedly envious of the attendance in Chicago.
There was plenty of undesirable drama as fire broke out in the Seventh Regiment Armory, threatening the $100,000 commercal vehicle and truck exhibit. Bunting and other highly flamable decorations burst ablaze and the situation was much in doubt until firefighters finally got the upper hand. Fortunately the conflagration occurred before most attendees had entered the facility. City Electrician D. Battle attributed the incident to an overheated stove coming in contact with decorations.
Both December 4 and 5 were double-price days where the price of a ticket was raised to a full dollar. The article makes a point that "freak" cars were eliminated from the show. Apparently, this meant an industry-wide move to standardization, especially bodies. The style was called "straight line effect." Somehow, the article asserts, this provided greater room and comfort in the tonneau for passengers. Seats were reported to be deeper and thicker.
Another design change from the past was to extend front axles beyond the engine. The radiators, too, moved forward, positioned directly above the front suspension. A longer wheelbase was again seen as an accommodation to the comfort of passengers. The articles report that more alloy steels were being used for a higher quality and longer-lasting machine. The cars were also reportedly built closer to the ground.
An interesting note is made that the market was demanding closed cars. W.J. Urquhart of the White Company is quoted: "We find each year a greater proportion of our output consists of limousines and landaulets, indicating clearly that public demand for closed cars is increasing. Another thing the public wants is absolute noiselessness of operation. The fact that the limousinces and landaulets are used almost exclusively in and around the city makes it necessary there should be flexibility of control. By flexibility I mean the car should respond readily to the throttle."
Studebaker had the greatest number of cars on display. There were four gas engine models, three electrics and seven commercial machines at their exhibit in the Seventh Regiment Armory. The Studebaker showroom at their local dealership on Wabash Avenue joined the celebration spirit with 41 cars representing 25 gas engine models and 16 electrics. The Pope-Waverley exhibit from Indianapolis had the second largest collection of cars on display with 11 models.
Nordyke & Marmon Company captured a good deal of attention for their air cooled motor of 40 to 45 HP. A new feature was a detachable cylinder head - supposedly designed to be removed in a matter of minutes. This reportedly dispensed with "valve cages" and made for quieter running.
Marmon also showcased a water-cooled engine. That engine's connecting rods and pistons were described as unusually long (connecting rods, 13.5 inch centers, 7.5 inch working on 5-inch stroke). The long rods and pistons "obviated the excesslive wall friction" caused by the angle of the short connecting rods and pistons of a smaller surface. This was also supposed to provide for greater durability. Honestly, I am not sure the writer really understood what he was reporting but probably did his best to parrot whatever he was told by salesmen.
Attachment ChiAutoNews120507 is the Indianapolis News coverage of the fourth day of the show. The 100 percent ticket price hike did not diminish interest among attendees. This was the seventh annual Chicago auto show and, again, was held in the Coliseum and both the First and Second Armories. An estimated 10,000 people attended on this day, December 5. Amusingly, the "press agent" for the event called the crowd "classy."
The reporter estimates that the companies with the larger exhibits were selling three to six cars each day. The article goes further to say that cars were becoming necessities and therefore less buffeted by a soft economy, "People simply must have automobiles nowadays, they say, and necessities are not being affected by the financial flurry." Apparently six-cylinder cars were being pushed over the more established four-cylinder alternative. 
Concurrent with the auto show was a membership meeting of the American Motor Car Manufacturers' Association (AMCMA) at the New Southern Hotel at 3 pm. Chairman Benjamin Briscoe presided over the meeting. H.O. Smith of Premier was the organization treasurer. Others officers listed as in attendance were:

Briscoe appointed Smith, Olds and Lewis to attend a meeting of the AAA racing board that same day. The prime reason for the meeting was reportedly to review the state of track racing in America. 
Attendees of the meeting expressed confidence in the United States economy despite retractions in the stock market and a tough recession. The report says AMCMA company members were placing large orders for steel and other manufacturing materials.
The last portion of this article starts with the sub-head, "Private Show of Indiana Cars." A quote by Charles W. Price, manager of the Favorite Automobile Company starts the article off nicely, "Our cars are winners. They have certainly won for themselves a distinctive place in this estimation of the motoring public."
The Favorite company is a local distributor for the American Motor Car Sales Company, which handled Overland, Marion and American cars. A private show was held at the Michigan Avenue salesrooms of the company. Ward C. Favorite was president of the Favorite company. Two other men, W.J. Bowman and  Charles Price reportedly "had their hands full."
Price is again quoted, "We have a large number of orders for immediate delivery and patronage is well distributed among all three makes...our sales all around have far exceeded our expectations and we are satisfied."
The article in attachment ChiAutoShow120807, published in the December 8 Indianapolis Star, summarizes the show as it closed the day before. A headline read, "Curtain Goes Down on Big Auto Show." The article opens with an analogy of a circus pulling up tent stakes after the show ended and references the landmark Selden patent lawsuit that hung over the industry during these days. In that case George Selden claimed he was entitled to a royalty of all auto sales based on a patent for internal combustion engines he had filed in the previous century.
The article proclaims the show the "greatest ever held." Future Indianapolis Motor Speedway co-founder and also Co-Founder of the National Motor Vehicle Company, Arthur C. Newby, is quoted:
"A phase of the auto trade that must be taken into consideration and which was in evidence at the show here is that the public is getting motor-wise and knows a good car from a poorly constructed one - an automobile in name only. Also education has created a discriminating class of buyers and no longer can a silver-tongued salesman point to the beauty of lines in a car and feel sure he is on the right track. It is better for him to talk on the merits of construction, materials, the reliability or some specific part of the car."
Given its market, the Star had a bias to be sure, but their report offered that Indianapolis manufacturers faired extremely well at the show. All reportedly did well and in another historical reference for the era, the downturn in the economy (the 1907 banking crisis) is cited as a challenge to moving product. I like the following excerpt:
"The booths of Indiana-made cars were not only crowded at all times, but placards announcing the sale of this or that model gave evidence that Hoosier products are to be compared with those of the old and larger manufacturers."
The article also goes into more detail on the reliability run with a descriptive list of the competitors and their challenges. Oldfield and Aitken had setbacks driving an Autocar and a National respecitvely.
To give you a sense of the detail the list goes into, note that Oldfield, in the number 12 AutoCar roadster, finished 15th in the contest. His car had 30 HP, was a class B machine and used Fisk Tires. He lost eight points for working on his spark plugs, four points for tending to his muffler, another four for work on his emergency brake, two points each for both a loose lamp and horn. He also lost an additional four points for work on his speedometer.
Oldfield's big loss was for 50 points for broken seals. These may have been some kind of clamp or wire restricting his access to parts of the engine. If broken, the seal would reveal that the driver had worked on some portion of the car officials felt was "out of bounds." Some of that is conjecture on my part. His demerit total was 74 points and the car weighed 3,690 pounds.
As for Aitken, he finished 10th. His National was 50 HP, used Diamond Tires and was in class A. The official weight was 3,100 pounds. His demerits came from a loose headlight screw (4), loose muffler (14), loose crank bracket (2), loose and leaking gasoline tip (2), loose lamps (4) for a total of 26.
With this level of description you can see it is not practical to replicate the entire list here. The PDF is very legible and could be worth your time as all 35 cars, their scores and the same details as described above are provided for each. 
The article in attachment FisherAtChicago120807 is a news digest published December 8 and the fifth item down in the "Echoes" column mentions Carl Fisher, James Allison and Matt "Adonis" Paxton - a name I was not familiar with as a manager with the Prest-O-Lite Company. Other items highlighted:

  • W.T. Miller and E. Guy Robbins represented the Robbins Carriage Company of Indianapolis.
  • H.O. Smith (Premier) and Art Newby (National) examined Ford cars.
  • Herbert Rice of Nordyke & Marmon was reportedly hoarse by the end of the show.
  • Pope-Waverley Company was credited as having the most complete exhibit of electric cars at the show.
  • George Whittier, formerly of the Fisher Automobile Company, was working for Reeves & Co. of Columbus, Indiana.
  • Harry Hearsey of Hearsey Vehicle Company of Indianapolis examined Rambler and Marmon cars. Frank Staley, an executive reporting to him had returned to their showroom to tend to business.
  • Ray Smith of the Indianapolis Motor Car Company spent most of his time at the Rapid Truck exhibit at the Seventh Regiment Armory.
  • Tom Hay, who had worked in some capacity in the bicycle market of the 1890's and later for National, was the manager of Ford's operations in Chicago.
  • The Indestructible Wheel Company of Lebanon, Indiana had the "somersault automobile" of the Ringling Brothers Circus in their booth.
  • R.H. Hassler, formerly with Marion Motor Company, was then working for McCord & Co. of Chicago. He displayed a new magnet of his design. The exact application is unclear from the article.

Attachment (NuttWins120807) contains three articles. One details the victory of driver Frank Nutt and his Haynes automobile in the reliability run associated with the show. The article notes that the event was organized by the Chicago Motor Club and boasted an impressive 35 entries. His Haynes machine was built in Indiana and endured the 1,000 mile test without being assessed even one demerit. The cars were scrutinized for two days by the technical staff before official results were posted.
The route included a stint from Kokomo to Chicago, which was 150 miles. There was also a route in the region of Ottawa, Canada consisting of 200 miles. The article reports that Nutt and the car had scored a dozen perfect scores in similar contests and competed in the 1906 Vanderbilt Cup. Compnay Founder Elwood Haynes reportedly rushed to Chicago upon hearing of his car's triumph. Haynes is quoted in the article:
"We may not rest on our laurels until next year as we have been victorious in every contest on the road in which we have taken part this year. The victory of Nutt in this race with a thirty-horsepower roadster is particularly gratifying to me and it is conceded owning to the rules to have been the most distinct victory ever recorded. I understand that wagers were frequently made that there would be no perfect score in this contest, but they did not manage to cut us out after an examination which I am told was the most thorough ever made. We feel quite satisfied with the victory and will try and follow it with others next year."
Perhaps an even more interesting story was the runner-up, 17-year-old Arthur Kumpf. He drove a 60 HP Pierce-Arrow and ended the test with only two demerits - assigned due to a loose grease cup that had to be cinched down. Krumpf had six passengers riding with him.
A second important article in this attachment is titled, "Two Local Men Honored By American Automobile Association." The two men have already been mentioned here, H.O. Smith of Premier and Art Newby of National. The article shares the news that they had been appointed to the technical board of the AAA. This took place at a recent annual board meeting in New York. In vital information for true, authentic historians of this era of the sport, the tech board members are listed and I include them here:

Note that the decision to make the addition of Newby and Smith was delegated from Chairman Sicklen to AAA President William Hotchkiss. Beecroft was expected to be named the board secretary and vice chair.
A third article in this attachment Charles J. Glidden and his famous reliability run. Apparently Glidden was at the time preparing to tour the world with his automobile. According to the report he already arranged for a car in Europe and planned to sail for Europe from Boston in just a few weeks - January 1908. He had reportedly applied for permission from the Sultan of Turkey to visit Palestine and "other portions of the Sultan's realm" and received it. Apparently such permission required a year to obtain approval.
Ever the adventurer, Glidden apparently planned balloon ascensions along his route as well. He had successfully practiced such activity with balloonist Leo Stevens who was a guest in Glidden's house at the time. His goal was to make an ascension in every country on the globe.
Glidden's wife planned to join him on his adventure. The couple planned to be back in America in time for the 1908 Glidden Tour beginning in July. The article closes with a paragraph about the financial position of the AAA. For the first time in history, the article says, there was a "substantial balance" in the treasury. The AAA had $6,500 in net assets with $2,000 outstanding from the 1907 tour. The article says this was the first time the Glidden Tour netted a profit. The 1906 event reportedly ended more than $1,000 in the red.
There are several articles published on December 13 (attachment AutoShowReview121307) which came after the show and provided an overview assessment. The main article is titled, "Recent Auto Show Greatest Ever Held." The reporter apparently spent most of his time interviewing H.O. Smith, a top executive at the Premier Motor Manufacturing Company from Indianapolis. Ticket prices ranged from 50 cents to a dollar.
Smith is quoted liberally. To paraphrase, he shared that he believed the show was the best ever held in America. Changes to car models from the previous year were marginal and Smith believed that the consumer had been largely satisfied with the 1906 offerings. Attendance was assessed as up, but no numbers are provided.
Consumers, Smith believed, were becoming more discerning in their assessment of automobiles. They looked more to "medium priced" cars with reliability credentials. Interestingly, the article quotes him as saying the manufacturers throughout the industry were adjusting production levels downward to avoid excess inventory. This was almost certainly due to economic conditions as there was a recession in 1907, although this is not specifically discussed as it would have been common knowledge as a worrisome issue of the day.
Another interesting point that is mentioned in an off-hand manner reference to "the driving season." This was basically determined by cold winter temperatures that could freeze fluids and ruin an engine. Also, there is conjecture that industry might coalesce around one annual show.
A sidebar article is presented with the title, "Big Road Race is to be Held." These plans called for a Floridian course from Jacksonville to Miami, a distance of 360 miles. Up to that point the entire distance of the road involved had never before been covered by an automobile. Someone named Ralph Owen had reconnoitered  a trip over the road from Jacksonville as far as Ormond. A White steamer had driven on the road to Rock Ledge, but no one had driven from there to Palm Beach. A 60-mile road from Palm Beach to Miami had been built by H.M. Flagler and was reportedly in good condition. Entries for the annual Ormond Beach speed tournament were expected to take part. Also note that a section of the road ran along the banks of the Indian River.
A short digest of news items titled, "Crisp News for Autoists" also appears. Carl Fisher is mentioned as host to several eastern manufacturers for his dealership business, Fisher Automobile Company. He organized a tour to Martinsville for entertainment. John D. Rockefeller is mentioned as a likely supplier of fuel and oil for the planned Paris-to-New York auto race coming up the following year. Sam Butler is mentioned as the Automobile Club of America executive charged with organizing the 1908 Ormond Beach speed tournament. There is also a note about the popularity of taxicab transport in New York city. Finally, the licensing agreement between the American Locomotive Company (ALCO) and Berliet, the French manufacturer is noted as a smart strategic move benefiting the American consumer.
Also, a tidy table of statistics is provided ("Results in the Recent Chicago Show Reliability run of Chicago Motor Club") for the reliability run associated with the show which was essentially a road rally analyzing the performance of the cars entered. Among the drivers in the event were future Indianapolis 500 veterans Barney Oldfield and Johnny Aitken. Other name drivers or top automotive personalities at the wheel were Charles BurmanFrank NuttJ.W. HaynesHarry StutzCharles "C.A." Coey and Webb Jay. There were 36 entries with car makers like Pierce-ArrowRamblerPeerlessMathesonStevens-DuryeaStoddard-DaytonJacksonMaxwellHaynesFrayer-MillerAuburnMarionStudebakerThomas FlyerWhiteOldsmobileLocomobile and National represented.
A sidebar article titled, "Who Handles Cars?" spells out Indianapolis dealerships and models carried. These are:

ChiAutoNews120407.pdf1 MB
ChiAutoNews120507.pdf1.03 MB
ChiAutoShow120807.pdf858.25 KB
FisherAtChicago120807.pdf213.1 KB
NuttWins120807.pdf536.34 KB
AutoShowReview121307.pdf2.14 MB