May 29 - Fans & Time Trials

The newspapers for May 29, 1913 - the day before that year's Indianapolis 500 - saw the action heat up on the track as fans clamored for lodging, parking and the best vantage points as they anticipated thrilling high speed competition.
Attachment GrindStar082913 contains a great article from the Indianapolis Star that focused on the time trials action of the day before. Building on the evening Indianapolis News' report on the eight qualifiers from the morning of the previous day, this article caught fans up on the afternoon's six additional qualifiers led in speed by Jules Goux. They were:

  • Jules Goux, Peugeot, 1 minute, 44.62 seconds.
  • Bob Burman, Keeton, 1:46.96
  • Louis Disbrow, Case, 1:49.09
  • Vincenzo Trucco, Isotta, 1:49.83
  • Albert Guyot, Sunbeam, 1:51.40
  • Ralph Mulford, Mercedes, 1:51.40
  • Joe Nikrent, Case, 1:54.08
  • Billy Liesaw, Anel, 1:55.35

Ralph DePalma was ready to attempt to qualify but his Mercer reportedly died on the backstretch and he had to be towed in. Burman was spared a serious incident by none other than Barney Oldfield who while not entered visited the track and noted a cracked steering knuckle on Burman's Keeton racer while chatting him up in the pits. The fractured part was replaced and Burman returned to qualify at a speed that disappointed fans because he had recorded faster times in practice.
Joe Dawson, who had been assigned the driving duties for the late-arriving Deltal racer abruptly found himself out of the show when the engine's main bearing fractured. Interestingly, Dawson drove to the track in the Marmon Wasp racer that won the inaugural Indianapolis 500. Dawson was an employee of the company.
Race Referee Art Pardington, Starter Charles Root and F.E. Edwards, who led the American Automobile Association (AAA) tech inspection were reportedly scurring about making arrangements for the big race. Edwards was particularly busy and noted to be working into the evening hours. Note, too, that Johnny Aitken, who worked for National Motor Vehicle Company and was coaching the European competitors - especially the Peugeot team - took the French contingent out to dinner the previous night at a Broad Ripple restaurant. He was accompanied by the Speedway's official interpreter, Professor S.M. Pimiento.
The Indianapolis News article (in attachment NewsQuals052913) published that afternoon covered much the same ground as the morning edition Star, but did provide some same-day updates, including news of two additional qualifiers from that morning. These were Ralph DePalma in the Mercer at 1:57.95 and Billy Knipper at 1:52.87 with his Henderson. Note that DePalma qualified in the rain. There was no big incentive for any driver to do much more than exceed the required 75 MPH minimum average lap speed since the starting grid was set in order of a drawing that AAA officials held at a drivers' meeting the previous night at the Claypool Hotel.
It is also worth noting that relief drivers were announced by several teams including Earl Cooper (Stutz), Herb Lytle (Henderson) and Lee Oldfield (Mason). Lee was no relation to his more famous colleague Barney. This article also reported that Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Carl Fisher and Charles Sedwick, the track's general manager, planned to rehearse the rolling start with the Stoddard-Dayton pace car later that same day - May 29.
Attachment NewsSpotlight052913 (Indianapolis News) offers a wonderful article that was a great primer full of useful information for fans. It explains essential information such as time the gates opened (6 a.m.) and start of the race (10 a.m.). The race purse was reported at $75,000.00 along with the $10,000 Wheeler-Schebler Trophy for the leader at 400 miles, the Prest-O-Lite Trophy for the leader at 300 miles and the Remy Brassard for the leader at 200 miles. Statistics for the previous two races are shared along with the best routes to get to the track, both for autos and rail. The report notes that while Crawfordsville Road in front of the Speedway was damaged in the great flood of 1913 it had now been repaired, complete with a good oiling and rolling (the road dirt with gravel).
This article makes the interesting point that the race would not begin if there was rain at the scheduled start time, but should it rain after the start the race would continue to its conclusion. At the same time much is made of the extra lengths the Speedway had gone to for the safety of fans with fire extinguishers located at key points in the grandstands along with professionally staffed medical tents located throughoutout the grounds. A gentleman by the name of Dr. Frank R. Allen was the medical director.
The field was reported to be 28 cars in rows of five, but the actual count would prove to be 27 in rows of four. Betting was legal in these days and bookies listed Bob Burman as a slight favorite. Overall the risk takers were putting their money on American cars as they were deemed sturdier and more likely to survive the pounding everyone would endure on the bricks. There is a concession, however, that the European entries were probably faster and should their cars and tires survive they would likely top the Americans.
It was again noted that Western Union had outfitted the grounds and the Pagoda with state-of-the-art telegraph equipment for communications within the grounds to staff at the manually updated scoreboards as well as newspapers around the country. An elaborate telephone system was also essential to the communications system. Perhaps most interesting of all were the numbers revealed for Speedway staff and their roles:

  • 150 scoreboard workers
  • 30 telegraph operators
  • 25 telephone technicians
  • 6 telephone callers
  • 5 adding machine experts
  • 4 timing machine experts
  • 6 scorers
  • 20 announcers
  • 10 sheet writers

Finally, I think this article contains a useful reference - an extensive list of names of the officials both from the Speedway and the AAA.
An article in attachment PressStar052913 is extremely interesting in that it discusses the national and international newspaper and magazine interest in the event. Over 200 newspapers and magazines had teams of reporters in town and even more sent photographers. This blew past the Indianapolis area's ability to provide lodging and some of these men reportedly slept in the garages but quickly found the still-chilly overnight hours air of May quite uncomfortable. A request was filed by unidentified "enthusiasts" with Indiana Governor Samuel Ralston for the release of Indiana National Guard cots and blankets but, interestingly enough, his office replied that there had been so many requests to stop the race he could not justify State support. The Cole Motor Company came to the rescue, clearaing out a showroom at their local dealership and outfitting it with 50 cots. An extensive list of the reporters and the publications they represented is also included in this article - among the better known are the Boston Globe, Automobile Topics, Louisville Courrier-Journal and Collier's. In a time when bylines were rare the names of the reporters behind the long list of publications is useful.
The Indianapolis Star (attachment FansStar052913) reports on the influx of fans coming into Indianapolis from other cities and then melting into the clamor of an already excited throng of locals. The constant conversations about all things automobiles is described and does a good job of giving the reader a sense for the atmosphere surrounding the Speedway and its associated events. The sights, the sounds of the city are described, especially the honking and chugging of these early engines. The hotels are again described as stretched past capacity and the cafes are serving up "Speedway Cocktails" and "Motor Frappes." Unlike today, the entire city was obsessed with the Indianapolis 500 and had no additional brain power to think of anything else.
Dusty and mud splattered cars chugged through downtown Indianapolis as the railroads and interurban lines braced for a massive influx. The most peculiar report is of Frank E. Filthen, a fan from Stubenville, Ohio who drove his specially modified car across rough country roads to arrive in the city. Filthen's story was notable because he had no hands. They were lost to a railroad accident as a child. His steering wheel was configured with special holes where he could insert his stubs.
Later that day the afternoon Indianapolis Star (attachment NewsCrowds052913) carried another article describing the massive influx of people into Indianapolis. This article focused more on the crush at Union Station and the increased train service. This included what was described as "special train after special train" organized by companies and auto clubs such as National Cash Register, the Chicago Motor Club and the Detroit Motor Club. Extra Pullman cars were pressed into service as well. The interurban lines increased the frequency of their service from downtown to the Speedway. Automobile clubs also organized runs from other cities such as the Chicago Auto Club and the Wolverine Club of Detroit. Hotels were again reported as sold out with rooms at a per person rate ranging from $2.00 to $5.00.
The attachment PoliceStar052913 contains a brief article announcing that Indianapolis Police Superintendent Hyland ordered a special team of officers to maintain order at Union Station. Also, in attachment NewsExtra052913 the Indianapolis News announced a schedule of special editions to provide start-to-finish same-day coverage of the 1913 Indianapolis 500. Unfortunately I have not been able to source these extra editions.
Attachment NewsAAA052913 includes for portrait-style images of the top AAA officials along with brief descriptions of their roles. The men are David Beecroft, Event Referee Art Pardington, Starter Charles Root and F.E. Edwards who headed up the technical committee that inspected the cars for rules compliance. Pardington is the most historically significant of the group and is probably best known for his role in launching the Vanderbilt Cup. Beecroft, whose role at the Indianapolis 500 is least clear, reportedly was the editor of the Automobile, Motor Age and Commercial Vehicle. Root was editor of Motor Digest. Edwards ran a educational instituation referred to as an automobie college in Chicago.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway founders Carl Fisher, James Allsion, Frank Wheeler and Art Newby are praised in a set of head shots with captions that is contained in attachment NewsFounders052913. In this piece the founders are praised for their selfless commitment to the city of Indianapolis and the automotive industry with their financial investment in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Attachment NewsTrophies contains a brief article with images explaining the role of the trophies mentioned above: the Wheeler-Schebler, the Prest-O-Lite and the Remy Brassard. Interestingly the G&J Trophy awarded in 1909 and 1910 was considered for reactivation as well but it could not be located. It was believed to be in the charge of the Buick company.
A pair of ads that ran in the local newspapers on this day for Nyberg (NewsNybergAd052913) and Keeton (KeetonAdStar052913) provide a good sense of what the cars that, respectively, Harry Endicott and Bob Burman drove.

GrindStar052913.pdf1.3 MB
NewsQuals052913.pdf802.57 KB
NewsSpotlight052913.pdf4.35 MB
PressStar052913.pdf302.89 KB
FansStar052915.pdf1011.89 KB
NewsCrowds052913.pdf2.8 MB
PoliceStar052913.pdf238.65 KB
NewsExtras052913.pdf1.13 MB
NewsAAA052913.pdf2.11 MB
NewsFounders052913.pdf1.73 MB
NewsTrophies052913.pdf918.55 KB
NewsNybergAd052913.pdf383.12 KB
KeetonAdStar052913.pdf657.18 KB