Tire Wars 1909

Attached are two ads that were originally published in the August 22, 1909, Indianapolis Star. Both were purchased by tire companies, one by Michelin and the other Firestone. The ads touted the success of cars equipped with their products during the first auto race meet at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. A third tire company, G&J (the initials stood for founders Thomas B. Jeffery and R. Phillip Gormully) was the title sponsor for one of the major events of the three-day race meet conducted on the second day and won by Lewis Strang. It is unclear to me that any of the entries used G&J product, however.
The ads are a handy reference for racing aficionados and historians alike as they provide a quick summary of the event results. This is especially true of the Michelin ad because cars using those tires dominated the events, winning all but two: a five-mile sprint on the first day and the Remy-Brassard feature race.
Firestone's star was Barney Oldfield who not only took the Remy-Brassard race but won all the time trial honors throughout the meet. As for the five-mile sprint, which was won by William Bourque, he did not use Michelin but there is no clear evidence he used Firestone. Bourque later that day became the first driver to lose his life at the Speedway.
Below is the information the Michelin ad covers. I want to note a few things about the ad.

  1. The information is presented effectively in inverse order in terms of the dates because the most prominent and complete results are from the last day which was immediately previous to one the ad was published. It is the only one of the three days that includes mention of the drivers. The other days' results are presented without the drivers' names - only the car marques and Michelin's name.
  2. In the few instances where a rival tire company crept into the top three (Note that in the ad were only two finishers are listed it is because everyone else dropped out of the event) they are represented by an "X."
  3. I am not sure why, but Michelin did not present the information in the order - or inverse order - the races were conducted. Understandably the feature race each day is at the top but the other races are not in any kind of order I can discern. I present them as the ad does, except that I start with the first day, Thursday, August 19.
  4. Note that unless an "X" is beside the driver and car then it was shod with Michelin tires - National apparently used both Michelin and another brand as both are listed in association with their team cars.
  5. In the attachments note that I include a jpeg version of the Michelin ad.

Michelin ad content:
Thursday, August 19
Prest-O-Lite Trophy (250 Miles)

10 Mile Handicap

5 Mile Stripped Chassis

10 Mile Stripped Chassis

5 Mile Stripped Chassis

Friday, August 20, 1909
G&J Trophy, 100 Miles

50 Miles Stripped Chassis

5 Mile Free For All Handicap

10 Miles Free For All

10 Miles Free-For-AllClass 1

10 Miles Stripped Chassis

5 Miles Stripped Chassis

Saturday, August 21, 1909
Wheeler-Schebler, 300 Miles

10 Mile Amateur

25 Mile Free For All (Remy Brassard)

15 Miles Free For All Handicap

Firestone ad content:
The Firestone ad curiously does not mention Oldfield's victory in the Remy Brassard. It focuses on speed records. Some of these were achieved in time trial events which are totally ignored in the Michelin ad and others were set along the way to Oldfield's Remy Brassard win. Below are the records listed in the ad:

  • 25 mile: 21 minutes, 21.7 seconds
  • 20 mile: 16 minutes, 53.8 seconds
  • 15 mile: 12 minutes, 32.4 seconds
  • 10 mile: 8 minutes, 15.9 seconds
  • 5 mile: 4 minutes, 11.3 seconds
  • 1 mile: 43.1 seconds
  • 1 kilometer: 26.2 seconds

Firestone also ran an ad on August 20 that promoted Oldfield's speed records set the previous day.

Michelin082209.pdf226.67 KB
FirestoneOldfield082209.pdf173.86 KB
MichelinAd.jpg902.96 KB