Indianapolis Auto Show - 1908

These articles chronicle the second annual Indianapolis Auto Show that took place from Monday March 23, 1908 through the following Saturday, March 28. This was a much expanded show over the previous year and had been planned by a committee of executives from local dealerships and automobile manufacturers for months. Below are several attachments containing news coverage of the event from the Indianapolis Star. Also check these articles from the following year - the 1909 Indianapolis Automobile Show.
The Monday morning paper provided a front page article (in attachment IndyAutoShow032308) highlighting the opening of the auto show week. A call out box at the top of the article provides the route of the big automobile parade that was to be the spectacular opening for the week. Naturally the newspaper underscores its own prize, the Star Trophy, a loving cup to be awarded to the city or club registering the greatest number of cars coming from outside Indianapolis. The "gay" (a term used to denote a celebratory mindset in those days) decorations of dealerships are noted as part of the general festive feel of downtown. Practice for the following day's Michigan Hill hill climb event is noted. The article reports that the cars were allowed a 100 yard flying start before enountering the grade which ran for a distance of four tenths of a mile. The fastest practice time up to that point was 38 seconds - which tells you something about the horsepower, torque and gearing of cars in those days. Also appearing in the morning paper on March 23rd was an editorial cartoon welcoming autoists to the show that appears in attachment IndyAutoShowCartoon032308.
Attachment IndyAutoShowOpens032408 contains an article summarizing the first day's activities which were dampened by the prediction of rain. The much anticipated kick-off for the entire week was the parade of motor vehicles billed as the largest of its kind ever - at least in Indianapolis. When weather forecasters called for rain to douse the city beginning around noon the organizers decided to postpone the parade until the following day. Keep in mind that beyond the obvious inconvenience to any spectators the cars of the era were largely open air, exposing occupants to the elements. In a sign of the state of information systems in 1908 the news of the change in schedule was slow to filter throughout the city and some 50,000 people lined the streets in anticipation of seeing the latest and greatest car models assembled in one extensive procession. Apparently it did not rain and nobody was happy with the work of the weatherman who was handicaped by the lack of satellites and meteorlogical technology we have today.
Meanwhile dealership owners and managers painted enthusiastic portraits of showrooms packed with excited prospects. Frank Moore, manager of Fisher Automobile Company, is quoted, "Visitors came early and stayed late, and our work was not in vain as we have several orders to show." Frank Staley of Hearsey Vehicle Company said, "...our store has been packed all day and the visitors were interested, not curiosity seekers. Three sales marked the opening day and with many excellent prospects we are feeling very optimistic over the outlook."
In anticipation of the hill climb event at Michigan Hill later that day (Tuesday, March 24) an entry list of the cars in the five scheduled events is also provided in the attachment. This is a great reference guide as it not only lists the cars but the entrants which were either dealerships or local manufacturers.
The hill climb results were reported in the article contained within attachment AutoShowHillClimb032508. The Fisher Automobile Company and Stoddard-Dayton were the big winners of the day, taking home first place in three of the five contests. Stoddard-Dayton also recorded the fastest time of the event at 37.4 seconds in winning the fourth contest which was for cars listing at $2,750 to $3,500. A box score is provided on the last page of the attachment. The car brand, the company entering it, the finishing position, elapsed time and the driver are all listed. There were some noteworthy drivers involved, but none of them won any of the contests. Among the notables were future Indianapolis 500 drivers Johnny Aitken and Harry Knight. According to the article hundreds spectators arrived by automobile (200 of which were estimated to be on hand), interurban light rail and horse-drawn carriage. At the beginning of the article are the directions of the automobile parade which still had not taken place having been postponed both from Monday. Previously the newspaper had reported it would be conducted on Tuesday.
The only Indianapolis-built car to win a race was an Overland entered by the Hearsey Vehicle Company in the second race for cars listed at $1,000 to $1,800. Both Hearsey and the Fisher Automobile Company were quick to prepare and place ads to boast of their success and intice potential customers. These ads are captured in attachments AutoShowOverlandAd032508 and FisherAutoShowAd032508 respectively.
Attachment AutoShowParade032608 contains an article reporting on the events of the big automobile parade which finally took place on Wednesday, March 25. About 175 cars attended, a mix of private ownership, dealerships and factories. Local businesses also included some of their service trucks in the procession as well. Many of the cars were reportedly decorated although it is not clear from the information what was done. An image appears on the final PDF page of the attachment and while it is interesting it does not provide such detail. Crowd estimates ranged from 50,000 to 100,000 people which is such a wide range it is impossible to draw conclusions although from the image it appears the streets were lined five or six people deep.
The anticipated obstacle course and "low speed, high gear" events were scheduled for Friday, March 27 and an article within attachment AutoShowObstacleRace032708 explained plans for the day. Indianapolis police were on hand to manage any crowd that gathered at Capitol Avenue between New York and Vermont Streets where the event was scheduled to take place. In the high gear event the task was simple: go as slow as you can in high gear without using the clutch and without stalling. In the egg cracking contest it appears an egg was positioned on a 2x4 board and the drivers were challenged to run over the board at any speed and crack the egg but not smash it.
This article also lists the contest officials including future Indianapolis Motor Speedway Founder James Allison who was scheduled to serve as starter. It also promotes the closing of the week with an event described as a "...grand supper, smoker and general jollification" on Saturday night at the Grand Hotel. The next day an article appeared in the paper reporting on the competition and is presented here in attachment AutoShowObstacleRaces032808. A chart names the winning cars and drivers of the four events. Apparently Cecil Gibson, the owner of the Gibson Automobile Company dealership, competed in and won the egg cracking contest. The star of the cracker barrel obstacle course was a Cartercar from Michigan whose driver managed to squeeze between the big wooden structures with minimum contact and at a sufficiently fast pace to triumph. Only a Pope-Waverley and Autocar managed to avoid any contact with the barrels. An estimated 3,000 people gathered to watch the contests.
Attachment AutoShowDealers032908, which appeared in the Sunday, March 29 paper, summarizes the success of the week at the dealerships. Several business owners and managers are interviewed and all offer glowing reports. Another article published the same day is in attachment AutoShowBanquet032908 and reports on the banquet celebration at the Grand Hotel. Reportedly 200 automobilists attended and were entertained by singers, vaudeville acts and keynote speakers. A gentleman by the name of A.E. Benton spoke about "The Prospect of the Auto," and H.T. Hearsey spoke with a call to government to take action on constructing good quality roads. The accomplishment of incorporating the Indianapolis Automobile Trade Association was noted and with the group agreeing that the competitive contests of the week were successful it was generally expected that the organization should produce additional hill climbs and road races. Related to that, the newspaper ran photos of three of the winning cars from the hill climb event and the related images appear in attachment AutoShowHillClimbPhotos032908.
News about the lasting positive affects of the show continued over the next couple of weeks. An article published on April 5 is contained in attachment AutoDealers040508 and reports that many or most of the local dealerships were sold out of inventory and were ordering more cars from their factories. Another article published April 11 (attachment DealerSales041108) reaffirms this positive news but adds the perspective that many factories had slowed production during the 1907 economic recession which provides another reason why - other than excitement generated by the auto show - demand seemed to outstrip supply.

IndyAutoShow032308.pdf961.27 KB
IndyAutoShowOpens032408.pdf594.97 KB
IndyAutoShowCartoon032308.pdf446.06 KB
AutoShowHillClimb032508.pdf995.28 KB
AutoShowOverlandAd032508.pdf188.96 KB
FisherAutoShowAd032508.pdf198.32 KB
AutoShowParade032608.pdf683.51 KB
AutoShowObstacleRace032708.pdf849.53 KB
AutoShowObstacleRaces032808.pdf810.92 KB
AutoShowDealers032908.pdf925.06 KB
AutoShowBanquet032908.pdf304.86 KB
AutoShowHillClimbPhotos032908.pdf291.65 KB
AutoDealers040508.pdf306.35 KB
DealerSales041108.pdf509.35 KB