Carl Fisher

This image appeared in the August 15, 1909 Indianapolis Star as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway prepared for its first automobile races. This is a portrait shot of Carl Graham Fisher, the visionary and driving force behind the creation of the Speedway. Together with three other investors Fisher founded the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Company in 1909.
Fisher remains one of the best individual examples of an entrepreneur as he created numerous businesses, operating several simultaneously. He started with a bicycle shop as a teenager and then transitioned into the Fisher Automobile Company, one of the first if not the first auto sales dealership in America. With partner James Allison he launched Prest-O-Lite in 1904 with its flagship product the first viable automobile headlight. This was prior to electric headlights as this product was based on compress acetylene gas technology.
Three years after establishing the Speedway, Fisher formed Globe Realty Company to develop the newly established town of Speedway, Indiana. This began his passion for real estate development which resulted in the creation of Miami Beach (including the exclusive Fisher Island) and later Montauk in New York. He also found time to be a leader in the Good Roads Movement, leading the effort to construct the Lincoln Highway, America's first transcontinental highway, as well as the Dixie Highway that ran from Chicago to Miami. Along the way Fisher also established an airplane construction business.
In addition to all these business initiatives Fisher was a hugely active sportsman. He was an accomplished race driver, speed boat pilot and balloonist. He threw himself into everything he did and a good example is that he was president of the Aero Club of Indiana at the time of the 1909 National Balloon Championship Races hosted at the Speedway.
Fisher's manic pace at building businesses was only matched by his frenetically bawdy lifestyle of drinking, smoking cigars and philandering. Both sides of his lifestyle scale carried the same quality of weight - astounding recklessness. Still, it took factors beyond his control to upend him financially. The great Miami hurricane of 1926 wiped out most of his real estate assets and the Great Depression nearly finished him off. His health failed shortly after with liver disease and terminal gastritis.
Before departing this world Fisher had one last entrepreneurial hurrah. The antithesis of Montauk, the private reserve of rich and famous, he developed a bar called the Caribbean Club in Key Largo, a respite for common fishermen and the working class. Featured in the movie "Key Largo" in 1948, the Caribbean Club thrives today as an historic and trendy night spot. If you have clicked through a lot of the links in this article you know there is a lot of content about Fisher on First Super Speedway, including an entire biographic book written by ex-wife Jane.

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