Contest Board & Manufacturers Act

An important article published in the Indianapolis Star on March 14, 1909 (attachment AAA031409) concerns the initial efforts of the revitalized American Automobile Association (AAA) Contest Board announced the previous month. A review of the article concerning that topic elsewhere on First Super Speedway is essential to fully appreciating the significance of this one.
In the earliest days of auto racing contest rules were sketchy and anything but uniform. This fact was a big factor in the AAA - Automobile Club of America (ACA) conflict of 1907 and 1908 that proved damaging for America's premier auto race, the Vanderbilt Cup. That battle spawned the ACA's American Grand Prize and raised the question of which sanctioning body governed American auto racing. A compromise position eventually placed the ACA in charge of "international" events and the AAA in charge of "national" events. The AAA wasted no time in better organizing to fulfill that role.
At the same time American manufacturers wrestled with the investment they should make in auto racing, balancing that against the promotional value from on-track performance and resulting marketplace success. To strive for more predictable and uniform rules the AAA wisely worked with organizations representing the manufacturers to develop the right car "formulas" for competition. An organization - the Manufacturers' Contest Association (MCA) designed to represent the collective automobile industry position on contest rules had formed earlier but with the advent of the revitalized contest board they tightened their bonds. In fact, according to the articles, the MCA's contribution was to define the car classifications.
Beyond the MCA other manufacturer-centric organizations played roles as well, creating an alphabet soup of groups in an "ecosystem." A New York Times article  published February 11, 1909 (attachment AAA021109) notes roles for the American Motor Car Manufacturers' Association (AMCMA) and the Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers (ALAM). They provided the executive talent and supported the MCA. One point to note - I believe the AMCMA was quickly re-named the American Automobile Manufacturer's Association (AAMA) and still later the Automobile Manufacturers Association (AMA). Journalists of this era did not always explain acronyms as is evident in the Indianapolis Star article.
The leadership of these organizations are noted in the two articles attached. The MCA chairman was Frank B. Hower (the namesake of the Hower Trophy and the AAA touring committee chair in 1908 and 1909), with two other gentleman, Frank G. Webb (Long Island Automobile Club executive) and A.L. McMurtry also named as officers. An advisory committee composed of representatives of the ALAM and AMCMA was the conduit to the opinions of the automobile industry. E.P. Chalfant, the general manager of the ALAM represented that organization while Alfred Reeves represented the AMCMA and E.R. Hollander represented the Importer's Salon - a New York-based association of North American distributors of automobiles from European factories. The manufacturers agreed to support the AAA over all other sanctioning bodies and would not support other auto racing organizations.
Among the primary operating principles reached were:

  • The collaborative group would issue car classifications every September for the following year.
  • Race promoters must produce "cash or plate" prizes as advertised and the option promptly provided with the winner able to chose according to his preference.
  • A standard entry form for events was developed - complete with the statement, "Under the sanction and rules of the American Automobile Association."
  • A schedule of sanction fees that varied depending on the nature of the event: road race ($300); track meet ($100); track meet & 24 hour run ($250); hill climb ($50); endurance contest ($50) and road & beach speed trials ($100).

A week after (March 21, 1909) the Indianapolis Star published the above mentioned article they produced follow-up information in a digest column (attachment AAAcontestboard032109) which apparently responds to some level of discord among the leadership of automobile clubs serving cities or regions around the country. The article represents the view that AAA and MCA leadership apparently held that such individuals would "get over it" and recognize that a unified organization with a national headquarters would work best for all. Perhaps more importantly are two notes that proposals had been put forth by members that the AAA should restrict competitors to males drivers 18 years-old and up. This is relevant to the reports of author Elsa Nystrom in here paper on Joan Cuneo elsewhere on First Super Speedway. Cuneo, the best known and probably most talented female driver of the day, was extremely successful at an important race meet held in New Orleans in February 1909 so her performance was fesh in everyone's mind at the time of publication of this information.
By April  5 when another follow-up article (attachment AAA040509) appeared in the Indianapolis Star the AAA Contest Board had continued to establish itself as the premiere auto racing sanctioning body. Sam Miles, well known in the automobile industry, had been added as the fourth executive to the advisory committee to the MCA. Also, another automobile industry organization, the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers (NAAM) is mentioned as an additional supporter to the AAA Contest Board. It appeared everyone in the American automobile industry had endorsed the contest board.
Attachment MCA042509 is a neat article published in the April 25, 1909 Indianapolis Star discussing the role of the MCA. The article underscores that the MCA established the rules for the cars - size, weight, etc. - not the enforcement of rules at race meets.

AAA021109.pdf89.01 KB
AAA031409.pdf482.03 KB
AAAcontestboard032109.pdf220.42 KB
AAA040509.pdf898.24 KB
MCA042509.pdf539.48 KB