The City Backs the Speedway

The three attachments, each with articles describing the enthusiasm of the Indianapolis business community for the new Indianapolis Motor Speedway, can be found below.
The first attachment contains an article that originally appeared in the August 15, 1909, Indianapolis Star. It describes swelling enthusiasm throughout Indianapolis for the upcoming first automobile races held at the new Indianapolis Motor Speedway August 19 - 21.
Businesses, chambers, and civic organizations were enthusiastic supporters of the new Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the first events held there. Teams, drivers, and others from the motor racing community were in the city, many spotted at downtown restaurants and saloons. From this article and others I have read, it appears there were accommodations at the track and many were staying there.
Specifically mentioned are Barney Oldfield, Harry Tuttle, Fred Wiseman, Ralph Mulford, Johnny Aitken, Harris Henshue, Al Dennison, Charles Stutz and William Bourque. These men were celebrities in Indianapolis in their day and should one of them enter a cafe all heads would turn their way and whispers would ensue.
One example of the support provided by business and civic leaders was to post directional signs throughout the city to help those unfamiliar with the area find the Speedway.
A little off topic but I also enjoy the style of writing during this era. Words we don't typically see today are frequently employed. Here's this article's vocabulary lesson:

  • Votary = devout supporter. The context was a reference to people supporting the Speedway, Motorsport, and the automobile.
  • Escutcheon = a defined area on which armorial bearings are displayed and which usually consists of a shield. This was a metaphorical reference to how city leaders planned to impress the leaders of the auto industry and the motorsports world.
  • Quotidian = common, frequent occurrence. This was an observation about how increasingly common it was to see race cars at high speed.

A second article, more oblique in its references to Hoosier commerce, appears in attachment VisitorsNews082109. This August 21, 1909, Indianapolis News article describes an unusual and increased level of shopping in local establishments. Here's a colorful excerpt - the lead sentence of the article, in fact - that paints a vivid picture:
"The interest of the week centered in the motor races and thousands of persons came from all over the country so that the streets and shops were filled with strangers."
The final attachment (IMSIndy082109) contains an article that gushes with enthusiasm for the new Speedway, citing the many events planned and how it would add much to the economic health of Indianapolis. A couple of points worth noting: the article was printed the day of, but prior to, the tragic Wheeler-Schebler Trophy race that claimed five lives. It also states that the facility cost $650,000 to construct, but cites no source. This is not entirely out of line with other estimates I have come across, usually a little higher, between the $700,000 to $750,000 range.
The article concedes that not only had the promised infield road course not come to fruition but also the oval fell short of track management's desired level of quality. This was cause for optimism for the future as improvements would certainly produce faster speeds.
The value to the business community is noted in the following excerpt:
"The new Speedway, in the opinion of many Indianapolis businessmen, has added much to Indianapolis. The first two days of racing on the new course made the city's name known throughout the world where there is interest in the automobile racing game. News of the shattering of world's records has been flashed to all parts of the civilized world together with the fact that the new marks were made in Indianapolis."
Specific examples are provided to describe the track's rough conditions. Both Ralph De Palma's Fiat Cyclone and Lewis Strang's eight-cylinder Buick were cited as entries the respective teams decided not to run because they were seen as too light to withstand the jarring they would endure in speeding over gravel, an uneven and sometimes rutted surface.
The article reports on plans Speedway management had in looking forward to the coming weeks and months. It asserts that a priority would be the construction of the infield road course and - apparently incremental - improvements to the oval. A 24-hour race was planned in almost exactly a month so workers needed to work around the clock, under the illumination of Prest-O-Lite headlights. The value of those was said to be $15,000. The debacle of the Wheeler-Schebler Trophy would begin the process of dismantling those plans and point management in the direction of brick-paving the oval. 
Gate receipts from the first weekend of racing strongly encouraged track officials. The article estimates that some 40,000 people attended the first two days of racing. Interesting, the article states that "hundreds" of spectators came from all parts of the country and the bulk of the spectators were from Indianapolis or central Indiana. Still, the patronage was deemed great enough for the entire city to be proud.
Looking ahead to the day's big race, the Wheeler-Schebler Trophy, the ornate cup is described. It was reported as solid silver, eight feet tall, and worth $10,000. The paper highlights the impressive list of driver stars probably very familiar to sports fans of the day.

IMSmerchants091509.pdf413.71 KB
VisitorsNews082109.pdf1.73 MB
IMSIndy082109.pdf6.13 MB