Critique of Chicago Auto Show 1910

The first attachment below contains an article that originally appeared in the February 7, 1910, Indianapolis Star. The report was generated from the Chicago Auto Show and was written by an outstanding automotive and motorsports journalist of the age Peter Paul "P.P." Willis. Willis offers a critique not just of the show but the strategy behind the location and venues for such events. This is best understood in the context of a time when the leadership of the Indianapolis-based auto industry was trying to challenge New York as the preferred venue for "national" auto shows. This argument centered on the strength of the proximity of the new Indianapolis Motor Speedway where proponents asserted that products could be demonstrated before consumers' eyes.
Willis' initial comments favorably compare Chicago to New York primarily with the observation that the venue is more closely located to the major manufacturers in Detroit and Indianapolis. Show officials had been contacted by both Indianapolis and Detroit representatives, the latter promising the construction of a speedway-provided they received assurance of being awarded the show. Either way, the argument centered on an open-air show because industry growth seemed to exceed the confines of known structures.
Evidence of the Speedway as a superior open-air venue was cited as seating capacity, parking, restaurants, garages, and nearness to a metropolitan downtown with hotels and rail service. The word was however that those entrusted with selecting national show venues were more persuaded by Detroit where the article states that even at this early date the Michigan city held a strong advantage with a significantly greater share of manufacturers. Among the Indianapolis leadership "boosting" the advantages of Indianapolis at the Chicago show was Speedway President Carl Fisher; Speedway Founder and First Vice President Art Newby; Premier Motor Manufacturing Company President H.O. Smith; William H. Brown and Howard Marmon.
Willis makes the point that the consumer was increasingly requiring product demonstrations and that simply displaying the cars and extolling their features and merits was insufficient. Willis stresses this is particularly important for women who were increasingly influencing purchase decisions. In a tone that would be deemed condescending by today's standards Willis says of the female consumer, "by the time she has seen one-half the show she does not know where she is - what she wants is to be shown."
Willis makes the point that while the consumer can go to dealerships for test drives the agent is an important customer at the national trade show. Also, trucks would be best demonstrated at an open-air show where they can be stocked with heavy loads and driven over the terrain. While races would not be necessary - says Willis - high-speed demonstrations would be useful and the track would enable that aspect. To this Willis touts the work of the organizers of the Indianapolis Auto Show where events such as egg races are staged. Such activities had never been a part of the Chicago offer.
Willis closes his article by pointing to the reported $27,000 spent on decorations for the event. He contended that while the decorations were important to the appeal of the enclosed venue event the money would not be necessary for an open-air presentation and could be re-purposed to more practical use.
Attachment AutoNotesNews013110 was published in the Indianapolis News about a week prior to the one analyzed above. This was printed in advance of the Chicago show, so it describes preparations. As expected, it stresses that Indianapolis automotive firms - both manufacturers and accessory companies - were to be well represented among the 267 exhibitors. The article reports that the show would be spread over 89,000 square feet in three buildings, the Coliseum, Coliseum Annex, and the First Regiment Armory.
The show was managed by Samuel A. Miles. The key audience was dealers assessing product to carry. According to the report the Indianapolis companies, for the most part, simply transferred their assets used at the recent New York show to Chicago. The event was reported as a national show attracting rival associations, the American Motor Car Manufacturers' Association (AMCMA) and the American Licensed Automobile Manufacturers (ALAM). The ALAM association was formed by companies agreeing to the infamous Selden patent while the AMCMA resisted and fought the patent rights.
The Indianapolis News was back with more coverage of the show on February 5, 1910, (attachment ChicagoNews020510). This article reports that about 100 representatives of Indianapolis auto and accessory firms were in attendance. This was reportedly the largest or certainly one of the largest delegations from a manufacturing center. The men were there to organize their employer's exhibits and were expected to remain at the positions in the Coliseum or First Regiment Armory.
Among the Indianapolis car companies on hand were: Premier, National, Marmon, Waverley, Marion, Overland, American, and Cole. There were also several accessory businesses exhibiting. The show was a mix of manufacturer managers, dealer reps, and the general public. 
Fred Willis of Willis-Holcomb planned to head the first delegation of Indianapolis dealers arriving on Sunday evening. His group was expected to be 25 in number, but it is unclear how many were simply guests of the company. A personality referred to as Pop Washburn reported that he believed Thursday of show week was the prime day for attendance.
Record attendance at the show was predicted largely attributable to reduced railroad rates Show managers had negotiated with Central Passenger Association. This was expected to boost interest in the event from out-of-town visitors. An example was the Elkhart Motor Car Company of Elkhart, Indiana, declared Tuesday a holiday and invited their entire workforce to take the train to the show. They had 100 employees and produced the Sterling automobile.
The article reports that 103 manufacturers had displays. Of those, 15 were motorcycle companies. There were also 182 accessory companies exhibiting.
The American Automobile Association (AAA) planned meetings in conjunction with the show. One of the important decisions regarded the route for the following year's Glidden Tour. The AAA Contest Board said they would consider a request from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a September event date. The National Association of Automobile Manufacturers, the American Motor Car Manufacturers Association and the Illinois State Automobile Association also planned meetings.
The next Indianapolis News article (attachment ChicagoNews020510i) confirms that the trade show opened on February 5. The article asserts that there were more vendors than in 1909. Apparently, the demand for exhibit space exceeded the capacity of the Coliseum and armory combined.
While it was the tenth annual Chicago Auto Show, it was only the ninth that had been organized by the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers (NAAM) with one of its most prominent executives, Samuel A. Miles as the presiding officer. The first show had been organized by participants.
Interestingly, this article indicates the first show occurred in 1900, but math tells us that would make the 1910 event the eleventh exhibition, not the tenth. However, a quick Google search reveals that this is a factual error in the article. The first Chicago Automobile Show was produced in 1901. The first show did not turn a profit based on space rental and attendance, but participants were reportedly satisfied with the business it generated. Note that the article says that an 18-foot wide track was built on the Coliseum floor for driving demonstrations. It must have been magic.
NAAM stepped up to show management in the second year, despite being a nascent organization. Instead of a track, platforms were built where apparently cars were driven, but it is hard to imagine how that worked. The show continued to expand in subsequent years, and in spite of creative reconfigurations in the Coliseum, the event outgrew its venue.
The show soon occupied multiple buildings. One year it expanded into the Seventh regiment armory in addition to the Coliseum, annex, and First regiment armory. This proved to be cumbersome and Sam Miles made the executive decision to return to just three buildings in 1910.
This article provides slightly different numbers with respect to exhibitors than the one we analyzed immediately prior. This one reports that there were 101 auto manufacturers and 12 motorcycle manufacturers. Add to those numbers 152 accessory firms and the total becomes 265 businesses. The article estimates that "at least a dozen" car manufacturers were new to the event. Four companies were from overseas, two more than in 1909. The motorcycles were arranged on the second floor of the annex and deemed much improved and affordable.
Next up, attachment IndyAutoNews020510 contains a table that supported the articles you can see here, all published the same day in the Indianapolis News. This table is nothing short of magic for true historians of our subject. It not only lists the Indiana-based companies who presented exhibits, but also which building or area they were located in. This is a treasure, very powerful stuff. Check out how the table is organized:
Coliseum, Main Floor

First Regiment Armory

Coliseum Basement

Coliseum Gallery

Coliseum Annex, Second Floor

Armory Gallery

ChicagoAutoShow020710.pdf1.37 MB
AutoNotesNews013110.pdf831.31 KB
ChicagoNews020510.pdf805.62 KB
ChicagoNews020510i.pdf1.29 MB
IndyAutoNews020510.pdf149.79 KB