Ray Harroun Checks his Rear View Mirror

This is an image of a 31-year-old Ray Harroun, first winner of the Indianapolis 500 in his Marmon Wasp as he checks his rearview mirror. Many say this was the first use of such a device on a car. I doubt it as I have read accounts of other examples even dating back to horse carriages. One three-wheel vehicle from the 1890's sits in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum with - you guessed it - a rearview mirror. That's okay, there is no doubt Harroun's innovation popularized the use of the device.
It is likely this photo was taken as part of the public revelation of the mirror he installed to counter the protestations of rival teams expressing concern that he carrried no riding mechanic (who could act as a spotter) and was therefore a safety hazard. This was May 1911, just prior to the first Indianapolis 500. Some of the competitors' motivation may have come as a result of Harroun dominating the 200-mile Wheeler Schebler Trophy race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway - in the same car - during the first full race meet after the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was paved with 3.2 million bricks a full year earlier in May 1910.
Harroun is an iconic figure in auto racing, especially at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, because he was declared the winner of the first Indianapolis 500. The story of his triumph is legendary and part of the tale is his work to design the winning car, the Marmon Wasp - which actually occurred more than a year earlier, well before the "500" was conceived by the track's founders. For some great photos and information on the Marmon Wasp, check out Conceptcarz.com.
Harroun was no stranger to success in driving cars. He won a variety of races, including seven other contests at the Speedway, such as the Wheeler-Schebler Trophy, the biggest of the pre-Indy 500 contests at the track. Harroun also won races at Atlanta, New Orleans, Long IslandPlaya Del Rey and, of all places, Churchill Downs. In addition to auto racing, Harroun also worked in early aviation and even served as a flight instructor at one point in his career. Retiring at age 79, Harroun's working life was focused on mechanical engineering. Born in 1879, Harroun died in January 1968 just days after his 89th birthday.

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