Did Carl Fisher Marry a 15 Year Old? (No!!!)


Donald Davidson, the chief historian of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, produced throughout 2009 a blog (no longer available on the IMS Web site) to chronicle the 100th anniversary of the first year of the Speedway's operations. I want to spend some time over the next couple of days highlighting some of the interesting information you find in his postings and today let's start with the age of Speedway founder Carl Fisher's first wife Jane Watts Fisher.
In Mrs. Fisher's book, "Fabulous Hoosier," (which you can download from this Web site for free) she has some difficulty with facts, although much of it is the result of faulty memory or simply making mistakes. However, a point of controversy for nearly 60 years - since her book was published in 1953 - is her age at the time she married. In her book, she claims to have been just 15 while Carl was 35. While this would not have been quite as scandalous in October 1909 when they married as it would be today, it would still be strange for a man of Fisher's prominence to make such a choice.
In 1909 Carl Fisher was one of Indianapolis' most influential citizens. Easily the top Hoosier enterpeneur of the day, Fisher was most certainly the city's most eligible bachelor. Jane Watts was an unabashed social climber and most certainly targeted Fisher as part of her plan to climb to prominence. While her age in 1909 - 24 - was no big issue, her vanity prevailed over time as she stopped counting birthdays at some point.
Years after Carl's death in 1939 she almost certainly saw opportunity to create income by drafting a biography on her deceased husband. To maintain her pretense some revisionist history was necessary. Doing a little math Jane must have determined that she would have to claim to be 15 to preserve a deception that probably fooled no one except herself. Over time Jane became nine years younger!
Donald uncovers solid evidence of this ploy with Jane's marriage and birth certificates. While all of this is water well past the dam and evaporated into the clouds, it is worthy to note that Carl was not the craddle-robber he is depicted to be in order to protect Jane's guise.