1906 Decoration Day Races Ad

This ad by the Indiana Automobile Company (212 to 224 E. New York Steet, Indianapolis) for a big Indianapolis auto race meet ran in the Indianapolis Star at some point during May 1906.
It's pretty apparent from all the advance promotion of the May 1906 Decoraion Day races at the Indiana State Fairgrounds that Barney Oldfield was the most marketable of all the drivers. This photo ran with an article about him in the May 26, 1906 Indianapolis News. While Oldfield had not established himself as a road racer (later in his career he turned in some pretty creditable road racing performances such as a second-place finish in the 1914 Vanderbilt Cup and a victory at the 1915 300-mile contest in Venice, California), he was the most decorated of the drivers barnstorming and running in races at horse track venues. These events, however, had come under fire after several injuries and fatal accidents to spectators and drivers alike. The previous year the motoring media had pushed for a ban at these facilities.
Regardless, fans still were drawn to the contests. Oldfield was widely respected for his "mile-a-minute" run on the same fairgrounds track three years earlier in June 1903. He had apparently bettered that mark by 6.8 seconds in subsequent runs at other tracks since then. Check out Barney Oldfield's record-setting performances at the Lexington Fairgrounds the previous Wednesday.

  • 20 miles: 36 minutes, 40.2 seconds
  • 30 miles: 43 minutes, 59.4 seconds
  • 35 miles: 51 minutes, 16.2 seconds
  • 40 miles: 58 minutes, 34.4 seconds
  • 45 miles: 1 hour, five minutes, 52.2 seconds
  • 50 miles*: 1 hour, 13 minutes, two seconds

* Broke world's record by two minutes, 18 seconds.
Also mentioned in the article is Paul Kaiser and his "White Streak" Peerless race car. Kaiser is described as a "game and nervy German." This is totally a guess, but I question that this man's name was truly, "Kaiser." If it was, then I question that he was actually German.
Hyperbole was the rule in these days and whether or not Kaiser was German is a question. Such pronouncements were many times done when the driver was not foreign at all, but promoters believed it made him sound more glamorous than his reality.
The article proclaims that Kaiser was "sent to this country after the scalp of Oldfield." He was billed as the most skilled European on circular tracks as for the most part drivers from overseas were already seen as road racers. Regardless of Kaiser's nationality it is clear the promoters wanted to inject a sense of drama and meaningful confrontation into the competition.


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