Auto Jargon in 1909

This editorial cartoon from the August 19, 1909, Indianapolis News, depicts the anxiety of many Hoosiers in trying to understand the "shop talk" of motorists who were converging at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for what would prove to be the disastrous August 1909 first race meet at the track. Five men died during the three-day race meet that began that day.
Apparently, the little man in the oversized bowler hat with "Indianapolis Public" written across it is perplexed by the jargon of the automobile aficionados surrounding him. These were still the early days of widespread auto use and may have seemed as intimidating to the everyday consumer as information technology is to much of today's population. On the other hand, I guarantee you that if thrust into the midst of a top-level professional racing team's debriefing even the most dedicated fans would struggle to keep up. Maybe the situation depicted here isn't so different.
I know the image is a bit faint. The little man is saying, "I wish I knew their language." Around him, from left to right, we see the phrases, "The magneto," "missing badly," "our carburetor," "ate dust all day," "all the way on the third," and, "put our chains on."
The public soon had much more serious issues to worry about. The angst and controversy generated by the accidents of the track's first auto races compelled Lieutenant Governor Frank Hall to call for a special session of the state legislature in an attempt to pass laws to ban the sport.

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