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IMS Records, Entry Forms, 1st Source Material

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#1 ZigZagZ

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Posted 20 June 2019 - 03:32

I've enjoyed reading Don Capps thread on the 1946 AAA racing season, and the data that he has shared.  No doubt, a lot of time & effort went into compiling this information.  Thank you kindly!  :clap: 


Piggy backing on a similar theme, I ask the question:


Does the IMS Museum have driver entry forms for the early races?


Officials at the museum have told me that they don't exist.  However, I have to ask if it plausible that they have somehow survived?  Case in point being, where did Jack Fox obtain data for his 1967 book?  In the preface section of the book he mentions "Official Speedway Records", and "Official Entry Blanks".  I don't believe the information was collected by searching old newspaper reports.  Some of the data may have come from race programs, but what about the non-qualifying entries?  I don't believe that information would have made it to the race day programs.


The entry forms would have served as a contract between the driver and the operators of the track.  I believe the entry fee for the 1st 500 in 1911 was $500.00, so significant money was involved here.  I tend to believe that such a contract would had have a clause releasing the speedway from any injuries or damages.  The tickets from the 1909 races have a disclaimer on the back of the stub, whereby the bearer of the ticket holds the speedway harmless in the event something bad were to happen.  Carl Fischer and the principals of the speedway definitely had a legal team addressing these issues, and would have been foolish not to.


My theory is that entry forms would have been retained for legal & business purposes.  Case in point being the serious accidents that occured in the 1909 events.  Entry forms would have been safeguarded & secured to fight off any potential litigation.  If Jack Fox had access to the entry forms in the mid 1960's then I would tend to believe they still exist today.


What do you folks think?








#2 Michael Ferner

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Posted 21 June 2019 - 07:07

Billy, I'm not sure entry blanks have survived in the IMS vaults, though it's certainly possible, even if the museum says they don't exist. As for Jack Fox, I'm sure he collected most of the information from newspapers, which contained very detailed info back in the day. Some of the data was culled from technical files, prepared by motoring magazines such as The Motor, some of it is just fanciful - in fact, those tables are far overrated by the IMS "fan community", as far as I am concerned; I've come across people who hold them so dear that to point out mistakes in those records comes close to heresy for them! Race programs, I believe, were only printed for the month, not specifically for race day, so they would contain info about non-starters as well.

I have seen entry blanks for "lesser" events, and can send you copies if you're interested. There're also one or two in the other Jack Fox book, The Illustrated History of Sprint Car Racing. I don't believe entry blanks for Indy were materially different, if at all.

#3 DCapps

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Posted 21 June 2019 - 23:42



Michael pretty much covers most of the bases, as usual.


As Michael correctly suggests, the entry forms were literally for entrants, not drivers. The entry forms for AAA events were standardized, whether it was the International Sweepstakes at the IMS covering 500 miles or a series of short events at the State Fair track at Hamline. While the format changed over the years, the paperwork for a sanctioned event was pretty consistent, for before and after the event. Not surprisingly, some promoters were better than other promoters and the same for the AAA representatives responsible for that sanction as well as the state and zone supervisors. Lots of paperwork floating around, in other words. Beginning with the 1910 season, under their new/revised rules, the Contest Board now required that drivers, mechanicians, and cars be registered each season. The same for tracks hosting sanctioned events. Yet more paperwork floating around.


For various and sundry reasons, not all of the paperwork made it to the mythical, magical, mysterious file cabinets lurking in the basement of the IMS Fall of Fame Museum. Keep in mind that this paperwork flowed from New York City to Washington, DC, to Indianapolis over a time span of eight decades by the time Gordon White managed to convince those at the IMS to allow him to microfilm the material. In more than a few instances, it was a pretty shoddy job in some instances -- pages out of focus, missing, only half a page recorded, and so on and so forth regarding the usual problems with any microfilming effort (yes, I am looking at you, Google Books....). I spoke with Gordon a number of times regarding this when we shared a table at the SAH annual meetings in Hershey. Gordon was primarily interested in the Midget material, that being his personal interest. He also told me that the microfilming effort apparently did not record everything in the file cabinets, those at the IMS literally pulling the plug for their own reasons. at any rate, those doing the microfilming halted at a point and that was that.


That Donald Davidson was not even aware of the Gordon White microfilm until I told him about it several years is not that much of a surprise, given that at the time it was being done Donald was actually working for USAC, not the IMS.


Until fairly recently, I think that it is safe to suggest that few now at the IMS had any real clue as to what may have actually lurked in the filing cabinets. The material was the purview of a very few and they tended to restrict access to it, especially "auto racing historians," for whatever reasons they had, but pilferage was certainly near the top if not at the top. It seems that when much of this material was at the AAA HQ in Washington, much it was "borrowed" -- a nice way of saying pilfered -- and never returned. The cock & bull story that Russ Catlin concocted is utter nonsense. Much of it simply appears to have walked off with someone. Never to be seen again, of course.


The AAA Contest Board material eventually wound up with USAC and then made its way to the IMS.


Along with numerous others, Jack Fox created and developed his material from a variety of sources, newspapers, programs, automotive journals, payout sheets, and whatnot, with perhaps some access to what was in the filing cabinets. As Michael suggests, Fox was not necessarily on target with what he had printed in his books and their revisions. If Michael seems a tad cynical, there are good and sufficient reasons for that. Fox was pretty much the one-eyed guy with cataracts in the land of the blind. Along with that of several others (I will not mention Russ Catlin, by name, of course), His Word became Holy Writ, and any confusion with facts contradicting some of that work being Heresy and Treason of the worst sort.


The likelihood of many of the early entry blanks surviving all this was slim to none, but a few somehow managed to do so. They are in the filing cabinets. But, they are quite few and nothing like complete. That Gordon White deliberately separated out the IMS material from the other AAA material did not help, of course. Basically, few really gave a sh*t about the non-IMS material, of course. In some ways that helped, but in others it did not.


Now, as for your theory, yes, doubtless that entry material and the sanction folders and ledgers were retained for a time, but, as they say, See Above.


Despite the efforts of Michael, John Glenn Printz, Ken McMaken, and others, there is still much to be done regarding the AAA era, Racing Board & Contest Board (not to mention the ACA, IMCA, and so forth). The usual focus on the cars and the personalities on the track and a very few events besides the IMS 500 mile events (Vanderbilt Cup & Gold Cup/Grand Prize) suggest how myopic, inept, ill-informed, and amateurish this has all been.


Michael tends to be cynical about the tech tables in the early US automotive journals, with good reason in some instances, but I still maintain that taken as a whole, that using the material to place things in context, there is much of value to be found in those journals. The use of the other archival sources and a good grounding in the era tends to lead to a very different impression of the era than most would realize. Again, not just singling out Michael but this applies to others as well, motor sport in the USA from 1895 to just the mid-50s is far more complex and nuanced and interesting (as in downright fascinating) than has been presented.


I could ramble on, but until we can entice those with scholarly backgrounds to begin to take an interest in this era, it will simply be the same old bullsh*t handed down and perpetuated forever.



#4 ZigZagZ

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Posted 22 June 2019 - 03:39

I have a glimmer of hope that the entry forms have survived, as well as other important papers & documents.  Maybe the IMS Museum has them, maybe not.  Perhaps the Hulman family has them.


The IMS Museum is a private entity, and as such they can set their own rules and policies.  I respect that.  They have done a very good job of cataloging photographs, and the image digitization project that they have done in recent years is an important step in safeguarding this material for the future.  This project alone is huge in scope, very expensive, and won’t be finished for several years to come, but I am thankful they are doing it.


Prior to launching the Chevrolet Brothers website I met with the principals at the museum, to let them know what my intentions were, and to seek their blessings on my publication.  In discussing Louie Chevrolet’s scrapbook collection with them, they did not know that they had it in their possession.  As you can imagine I was flabbergasted to hear this!  I was then told that they have a large volume of material that really hasn’t been properly inventoried or catalogued.


The speedway, and museum, have endured difficult times in the last 25-years, with falling attendance, shrinking television ratings, and revenue shortfalls.  Recently the museum has embarked on a program of securing corporate sponsorships to bridge the gap, and has shared with the public ambitious ideas on expansion and modernization.  The long term goal being to bring the museum into the 21st century with interactive displays, hi-tech computerized video screens, and other modern amenities.  Such a facility would tantalize the senses for all visitors, and not just hard core racing junkies.


While I’m all for modernization, I believe that a great deal is to be learned from the vast collections they have in their archive.  These collections should be inventoried, catalogued, and digitized.  Additionally fragile material should be safeguarded from deteriorating, and protected with conservation efforts (with the Chevrolet scrapbook being a prime example).


Sharing this information with historians would benefit the museum in the long run.  It would fill in the gaps, answer unanswered questions, and would provide important leads on new and exciting material just waiting to be discovered.

#5 DCapps

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Posted 24 June 2019 - 00:24

I think that it is safe to suggest that Mike, Jason, and crew currently dealing with the archives and collections of the IMS have a rather different view of the material, its importance to scholarly historians, and the issue of access.


Given some of the antics of many of the supposed "auto racing historians" of the past, it is not difficult to comprehend their difficulties with access to the material.


However, switching gears a tad, that academe until very recently has taken little real interest in sport or automotive history, much less that of motor sport, reflects the myopia of many of those residing within those hallowed groves with the unicorns. Should one wish to get a bit of insight into that mindset, try reading Stanley Fish's "The Unbearable Ugliness of Volvos." While those outside academe might see it as merely another reinforcement of their already low opinion of those within the academe, for some of us who have labored within those hallowed groves and tussled with the unicorns find it reflecting the many reasons that we are "independent researchers" or "independent scholars" or whatever the current code name is for us at the moment, especially now that the barbarians of this Second Gilded Age are doing their level best to turn educational institutions, especially of the post-secondary variety, into vocational schools, the humanities need not be present, of course. Fortunately, a few brave souls from the scholarly side of the ledger are willing to delve into the rather messy, untidy, and essentially screwed up mess that passes for "motor sport history." Once again, we are fortunate that there are a few hardy souls here and elsewhere who have taken a different mindset with them into the task of sorting out that history. One hopes that the teaming of these two groups might have a very beneficial effect on the study of this topic, in addition to that which it already has.


As for the Hulman family, good luck. I seriously doubt that for a variety of reasons, not to mention that if they did, there would be a great reluctance to share them for no end of reasons.


Let us not also overlook that there a great many who view history and its artifacts as proprietary, commercial goods, with the notion of scholarly knowledge being an utterly alien concept.


That collections require funding to do all the things you mention is one of the many reasons that the places such as the IMRRC and others are struggling and teetering on the edge of, if not disaster, than serious degradation of whatever they once imagined their missions to be.



#6 ZigZagZ

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Posted 24 June 2019 - 03:12

I think Betsy, Mike, Donald, and the whole team at Indy are very good people, and have the best of intentions.  At the same point in time they have real world budgetary constraints to deal with.  The museum can’t thrive on ticket sales alone, and today fund raising has become the #1 priority.  A good portion of the staff is comprised of volunteers & docents who are not on the payroll.


No doubt the museum’s holdings have been compromised in the past, and that has led to the closed door policy that has been in place for a long time now.  Like most of us here, I’ve been to several archives where safeguards are in place to prevent material from walking.  This includes making appointments in advance, showing your government ID, and checking in backpacks & briefcases at the desk.  Files pulled are inventoried, and one is pretty much limited to just a note book and a number 2 pencil when reviewing material.


In regards to academia, I agree that most major colleges & universities do not offer direct course work in automotive history, and that is a shame.  No such courses were in my college catalog when I was in school, however I did take classes that touched on the industry.  It seems as though auto racing history is discipline that is held in the same light as professional wrestling.


Some of the archival holdings at IMS do have a commercial value that the museum has profited from.  I read an interview with Rose Chevrolet that was taken back in the 1980’s where she talked about the Chevrolet scrapbook.  The collection was donated to the museum in 1971 following the death of her husband Alfred Chevrolet.  Over the years the photo shop has sold copies of images from the collection without giving the family a royalty, and it was a practice that displeased her.  She was retired at the time, and lived on a modest pension.    

Edited by ZigZagZ, 24 June 2019 - 03:27.

#7 lotuspoweredbyford

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Posted 02 December 2019 - 15:18

Just happened to see this thread.


The answer to the original question is yes, but not all of them.


I haven't seen ANY from prior to the very late 1920's however. 


Appreciate the kind words expressed in the thread. 

Edited by lotuspoweredbyford, 02 December 2019 - 15:18.