Moross Closes Wright Bros. Deal (1910)

This article was originally published in the March 23, 1910 Indianapolis Star. It breaks news that had been rumored for weeks: that Indianapolis Motor Speedway Director of Contests Ernie Moross had reached an agreement with the Wright Brothers to conduct a June aviation meet at the Brickyard. This aviation meet saved face for the Speedway which had repeatedly promised and failed to deliver such an event the previous autumn.
The track's aviation event took place in the context of the more historically significant period during which the Wright Brothers were active in legal battles to protect the intellectual property of their design. As explained in another article elsewhere on First Super Speedway the Wrights legal wrangling served to retard the development of airplaine technology in the United States for several years. The Wrights had actually won a court injunction against other manufacturers constructing and selling airplanes.
As part of the agreement Moross struck with them the Wrights allowed an exception of the injuction as long as other participants paid a license fee for the Speedway event. Among those agreeing to also participate was Joseph Curzon who had been storing his French-built, Henri Farman-designed airplane in the track's aerodrome. Speedway President Carl Fisher had established an airplane construction business in Indianapolis and also planned to file entries.
Although the United States had won the rights to host the second annual international aviation show due to the American Glenn Curtiss winning the James Gordon Bennett Trophy race at Rheims in 1909 the Wright's legal actions cast doubt on the event taking place. This made the Speedway aviation show even more important at the time because many thought it may be the only such contest of 1910. As time passed, however, the 1910 international air show did take place in New York at Belmont Park.
Moross' initial discussions with Roy Knabenshue,* the manager of the Wright Exhibition Company hit a stumbling block. Upon revisiting the proposition with Wilbur Wright, Moross was able to close the deal and is quoted.
"I had a long talk with Wilbur Wright, and I don't believe what they say about him being the man who never smiles. Why, I made him laugh several times. When I told him about our great Speedway and the kind of a city Indianapolis is to attend to and care for such an event of international importance he just more than smiled."
The article quotes the clause of the contract that permitted the exception: "The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is desirous of entering machines which are infringements upon the Wright patents; the Wright Company agrees to issue a license for these machines to appear at this meet only, the machines to be designated later, and each individual operator must agree to not appear with these machines at any other meet without a special license granted by the Wright Company. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway agrees to embody in their advertising that all aviators and machines, other than the Wrights, which take part in this meet are operating under special license for this meet only."
The financial terms of the agreement were also released. According to the terms, the Speedway agreed to pay the Wrights:

  • A percentage of gate receipts with a guarantee of at least $50,000 to the Wright Company.
  • The Speedway agreed to award $25,000 in prizes and spend $20,000 in advertising the event.
  • There was an understanding that there would be additional undetermined expenses in preparing equipment.

Another air show in Los Angeles reportedly only attracted four airplanes - but a fact check demonstrates this is a mis-informed opinion. The Wrights agreed to enter at least five planes to the Speedway's event and the licensing agreement meant several more could compete. Track management had initiated a plan to upgrade what they called their "aviation field" in order to enable air show teams to be able to practice as soon as possible.
Note, too, that there is another article in this attachment that concerns auto racing at Daytona - on the beach. This was during the time of the 1910 edition of the annual speed festivals. Barney Oldfield had just the previous week set the world land speed record (131+ MPH) in his newly acquired Blitzen Benz. Oldfield had also won a 20-mile "free-for-all" stock chassis race the previous day, driving a Knox. The article also shares that the electric timing device had failed, forcing a postponement of the speed trial runs for one and five miles.
*More interesting info on Knabenshue.

IMSaeroPlans032310.pdf626.52 KB