Merz, Aitken & the Vanderbilt Cup

These images were first published in the October 31, 1909 Indianapolis Star in association with the newspaper's coverage of that year's Vanderbilt Cup. The images are of National Motor Vehicle Company entries for drivers Charlie Merz and Johnny Aitken.
These pilots were a formidable team. Clearly nobody had more guts than the 21-year-old Merz who emerged basically unscathed from a devastating accident on the third day of the first auto race meet at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
That accident was triggered when a tire exploded on Merz' dark blue National racer and the machine tumbled into a spectator area killing two men (James West and Homer Jolliff) as well Claude Kellum, his riding mechanic. Both Merz and Aitken won races during the Indianapolis meet and were seen as serious at Long Island, New York's Vanderbilt Cup contest.
Both men met mechanical problems in the race and neither finished. Merz was classified seventh when he broke a cylinder on lap 12 of the 22 lap race. Aitken retired earlier when he lost a wheel on lap 4.

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