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Harry H. Butcher?


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#1 Nanni Dietrich

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Posted 01 April 2008 - 10:00

What did happen to Harry H. Butcher?

Two times Indy 500 starter, (14th place in 1930, retired on 4th lap in 1931) he died on 18 June 1942, aged 48. He was from Wilmington, IL.

I'm not able to find anything about his death in the web, whether he died while still racing, or possibly in a war action (year 1942). :confused:

Here is a pay-page on New York Times-Archive which title is "HARRY H. BUTCHER !; In 1931 Won 500-Mile Auto Race at IndianapolisuDies in West"
http://select.nytime...ry butcher&st=p
but it is impossible for me to open it. (what does it mean "dies in West"?)

Help, please.

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#2 fines

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Posted 01 April 2008 - 13:51

Harry "Hank" Butcher (I have seen him also listed as "Harry A. Butcher" and "Harry M. Butcher", btw) was, at best, a very marginal figure in US autoracing. He was one of a number to take advantage of the "junk formula" in the early thirties to build, well, a junk racing car and take part in the greatest race of the world! He and his brother ("James R. Butcher") at first mated a 5430cc Buick 6-cylinder engine to a number of other Buick components to create the 1930 "Butcher Brothers Special". Hank taking the wheel and Jim hopping in as riding mechanic, they qualified slightly under seven minutes, which would have been (just) fast enough to bump J. J. McCoy from starting in last position... in 1919! They "finished" the race 14th, and last again, lapped a gazillion times - actually completing less than 320 miles in almost six hours.

Buoyed by this performance they modified the car considerably and installed a 4466cc Buick 8-60 engine, shedding 230 pounds to drop the weight under 1200 kg, and came back in 1931 to almost crack the 6-minute barrier in qualifying - that would actually have put them on pole... if they had managed that feat with a 3-liter engine in 1920! Eleven years later it was good enough to be slowest qualifyer yet again, even though the still slower Diesel was allowed to start as well. Their unrivalled run of last places was stopped in a wreck on lap 7, and they hadn't even been the first to retire. That, as far as I can make out, is the complete racing career of Hank Butcher, though it may be assumed that perhaps he partook in a few County Fair races of the "outlaw type".

As for "Dies in West", I would hazard a guess that the hack writing the article in New York wanted his readers to know that said gentleman died somewhere in California or other place on the west coast of the USofA, as in "the farthest western part to those in the farthest eastern part of the known world"...;)

#3 raoul leDuke

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Posted 01 April 2008 - 15:35

Harry Butcher died in Wilmington Illinois where he was a prominent businessman involved in local politics.

Where the NYT got the idea that he won the Memorial Day 500 at Indianapolis in 1931, I am not quite sure.

Apparently he once received a sporting award for driving his car through a fence to avoid another car that had overturned.

Wilmington is 52 miles south of Chicago so hardly California, but indeed west of New York!

#4 Richard Jenkins

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Posted 23 April 2008 - 21:31

After a heads-up from Reinhard the full article is as follows:
(This was also printed in the Chicago Tribune the next day)

Chicago - June 19. Harry H Butcher died yesterday in Wilmington, Illinois, where for many years he was a business & political leader. His age was 47. *(Note, I make it 48, but there are errors in this obituary, so don't take 47 as gospel)

Mr Butcher also won laurels as an automobile racer. In 1931 he won the 500 mile Memorial Day race at Indianapolis. (Well, that's a surprise to us all!) He also received in a contest the sportsmen's award by driving his racing car through a fence (NOW that's more like it! This is what happened in 1931...!) to avoid, at the risk of his own life, striking the driver of a car that had overturned.
He leaves a widow.


If the obituary meant to say, competed rather than won, it's a bit more accurate. As to Dies in West - well, it's a bit bizarre isn't it?

#5 Russ Snyder

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Posted 07 December 2011 - 14:39

After a heads-up from Reinhard the full article is as follows:
(This was also printed in the Chicago Tribune the next day)

Chicago - June 19. Harry H Butcher died yesterday in Wilmington, Illinois, where for many years he was a business & political leader. His age was 47. *(Note, I make it 48, but there are errors in this obituary, so don't take 47 as gospel)

Mr Butcher also won laurels as an automobile racer. In 1931 he won the 500 mile Memorial Day race at Indianapolis. (Well, that's a surprise to us all!) He also received in a contest the sportsmen's award by driving his racing car through a fence (NOW that's more like it! This is what happened in 1931...!) to avoid, at the risk of his own life, striking the driver of a car that had overturned.
He leaves a widow.


If the obituary meant to say, competed rather than won, it's a bit more accurate. As to Dies in West - well, it's a bit bizarre isn't it?


interesting. Thank you.

I was going to ask Mr Davidson what happened to the 'Butcher Bros' and their Buick...

but I am glad I looked here.

Thanks Michael....A modified Buick (family car!) they painted orange and got into the greatest race in the world during the Junk error, era, driving with Billy Arnold's, Louis meyer's, Wilbur Shaw's lol...laughable almost and a movie script looms if someone wants to take this one on.

btw - in the 1931 Indy 500, the Butcher Bros went over the N/E wall (turn 3).