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Indianapolis Auto Show 3-18-1907,
Copyright © 1907 Indianapolis Star

The First Indianapolis Auto Shows were open air affairs.  There was no building in the city large enough for an enclosed show, therefore, the dealers arranged for openings on a large scale in the downtown business district.

The first show began on March 18, 1907, and lasted one week.  Special rates were granted on rail and interurban lines to draw thousands of visitors to downtown Indianapolis.

Auto manufacturers shipped their most attractive models to local dealerships for perusal.  Prospective purchasers had a chance to see new models made in Indiana or elsewhere.  Indianapolis-built cars were proudly demonstrated to all comers.

Several hundred cars took part in the opening day parades over downtown streets.  Dealers elaborately decorated their showrooms and garages.  They attempted to make their show as attractive as other auto shows across the country.

This show was the inauguration of the automobile season in Indiana.  The Indianapolis Star reported that there were almost 1,000 cars in Indianapolis, and probably 1,000 more were owned in other cities around the state.

The enthusiasm demonstrated with this inaugural show in 1907 showed the viability of auto shows in Indianapolis.  Opening day of the 1908 show was declared “the greatest day the automobile ever had in Indiana.”  The special feature of the second-day program of the 1908 show was the hill-climbing contest on Michigan Hill, northwest of the city.  A silver trophy was awarded by the Fisher Automobile Company to the touring car making the best time.  The Overland Auto Company offered a cup to the roadster or runabout making the best time.

Indianapolis Auto Show 3-27-1910

Indianapolis Auto Show 3-27-1910
Copyright © 1910 Indianapolis Star

By 1910, there were over 30 dealers and garages spread around downtown Indianapolis.  Can you imagine the chaos in the evening trying to get around to all of the different places to see prospective cars on your list?

 1910 Indianapolis Automobile Dealers

Name Location
American Motor Car Sales Co. Oliver Ave. and Drover
Buick Motor Co. 130-132 E. New York
Claypool Garage 27 N. Capitol Ave.
Conduitt Automobile Co. 332-334 N. Delaware
Cost-James Motor Truck Co. 224-226 S. Pennsylvania
Crescent Auto Co. 25 E. Ohio
Decatur Motor Car Co. 318 E. Market
Finch & Freeman Auto Co. 322 N. Delaware
Fisher Automobile Co. 400-424 N. Capitol Ave.
Gibson Automobile Co. 238 Mass Ave. & 235 N. Pennsylvania
Hearsey-Willis Co. 113-117 W. Market
Henderson Motor Sales Co. 742 E. Washington
Indiana Automobile Co. 321 Mass Ave.
Indiana Motor Sales Co. 505 Odd Fellows Bldg.
Indianapolis Automobile Co. 113 W. Maryland
Knickerbocker Auto Co. 330-332 E. Market
“McFarlan-Six” Sales Co. 816 State Life Bldg.
Maxwell-Briscoe Indianapolis 363 N. Illinois
Motor Car Sales Co. 215 N. Delaware
National Motor Vehicle Co. 22nd & Monon R.R.
Nordyke & Marmon Co. S.W. Corner Meridian & New York
Overland Automobile Co. Oliver Ave. and Drover
Peck Motor Car Co. 324 N. Pennsylvania
Rambler Auto Co. 224 S. Pennsylvania
Reliable Auto Exchange 820 E. Washington
Satterthwaite, Harry C. 636 E. Washington
Sears Bros Co. 750-752 Mass Ave.
Shoemaker-Smith Auto Co. 249 N. Pennsylvania
State Automobile Co. 328 N. Delaware
Sterling Motor Car Co. 142 W. Market
Studebaker Bros. Co. of Indianapolis 307-315 N. Pennsylvania
The Waverley Co. 139 S. East
Willis-Holcomb 330 N. Illinois

Soon, over 60 dealers and garages throughout the business district hosted thousands of visitors at these shows.  Open-air Indianapolis Auto Shows continued until the first tent show around University Park in March 1912.  Later, enclosed shows moved to buildings at the Indiana State Fairgrounds that were large enough for indoor expositions.

20 responses to “First Indianapolis Auto Shows Draws Thousands”

  1. basil berchekas jr says:

    Got to stay with this one!

  2. Kevin J. Brewer says:

    It would be interesting to see a map of downtown with all of these addresses marked.

    Two of the addresses are very odd:
    Indiana Motor Sales Co., 505 Odd Fellows Bldg.
    “McFarlan-Six” Sales Co., 816 State Life Bldg.

  3. Norm Morford says:

    Thanks, Dennis.

  4. Dennis E. Horvath says:

    Hi Basil, Kevin, & Norm:

    These addresses were taken form a 1910 directory. If my memory serves me right, the Odd Fellows Bldg. was on the south side of Ohio St. between Meridian & Pennsylvania, and the State Life Bldg was on the south side of Washington St. between Meridian & Pennsylvania.
    Somehow, I don’t believe they displayed cars on the fifth and eighth floors of these buildings. There wasn’t enough room. Maybe they were just sales offices.
    Oh well, that’s what the directory noted.

    Dennis

  5. basil berchekas jr says:

    Good job on this, Bro! thanks!

  6. Mark Dill says:

    Hi Dennis – funny, I was just reading about these auto shows in the original newspaper coverage I have collected at the library in recent weeks. Nice summary!

  7. Jeff Downer says:

    The whole entrepreneurial vibe of these early car shows reminds of the internet boom. One can still sense the dreams and vision of the exhibitors. Sadly, there came the inevitable shake out.

  8. Scott Smith says:

    Hi, Dennis. Where exactly is/was Michigan Hill?

  9. Dennis E. Horvath says:

    Hi Mark:
    Thank youi for youir comments. I started my research on Indianapolis Automobile Row a year ago. It has been quite interesting what I’ve found searching the Indianapolis Star database available at the IMCPL. More to follow.
    Dennis

  10. Dennis E. Horvath says:

    Hi Jeff:
    I am energized by the entreprenurial spirit of our early automotive pioneers. Look at what Fisher, Allison, Newby, and Wheeler created over 100 years ago. Today, we are living the legacy they started.
    Dennis

  11. Dennis E. Horvath says:

    Scott:

    From my research I was not able to exactly determine where Michigan Hill was. But, if you look at a 1910 map of Indianapolis, you’ll see Michigan Road as the west boundary of Crown Hill Cemetery. Crown Hill is the highest site in Indianapolis. I believe Michigan Hill would be somewhere along the nearby road, perhaps at White River.

    Dennis

  12. Mark Dill says:

    I have been doing deeper research on Fisher and the IMS founders recently. It is pretty amazing to read about the businesses Fisher (with the other founders in some instances) founded in the 1909-10 time frame. He already had his auto dealership/garage and Prest-O-Lite but also started the Empire automobile company, and aero engine manufacturer with the IMS founders and Howard Marmon as well as an airplane building business ran out of his auto garage. That company built the first airplane constructed in Indianapolis. Outside technology he had also started a real estate business. Talk about entrepreneurial spirit!

  13. Mark Dill says:

    The database for the Star is great but you miss a lot because there are things in the microfilm you don’t even know to search the database for. Also I have been looking at the News and Sun. It would be great to get that stuff into the database.

  14. basil berchekas jr says:

    this is probably a shot fired in the dark, but any old records of the Indianapolis Times would be cool to find too, especially about the KKK Era in Indiana…

  15. Mark Dill says:

    Actually, The Sun became The Times. Not sure why the name changed. Maybe someone else knows. Perhaps a change in ownership.

  16. basil berchekas jr says:

    Appreciate the comment…I wasn’t aware of it. thanks.

  17. Dennis E. Horvath says:

    Hi Mark:

    I was not aware of the aircraft connection. Great stuff. When will we see the complete story?

    Dennis

  18. Mark Dill says:

    I have the original articles and plan to write a summary soon. There is not a lot of information and I suspect these businesses were very short lived.

  19. Kevin Dunn says:

    My maternal great grandfather was Harry C. Satterthwaite. He is listed as one of the 1910 Indianapolis Automobile Dealers. From what I know, he and a partner opened the first Standard Oil station in Indianapolis. He was also involved in the early days of the Speedway. Might you have any more information on him?

  20. Sally Satterthwaite Young says:

    Harry C. Satterthwaite was my paternal grandfather and I am the mother of Kevin Dunn who posted above. We would be truly grateful if anyone has any further information of his family’s life in Indianapolis. Thank you so very much.

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