One of my favorite and most readable and interesting books on early Indianapolis history is “Indianapolis: The First Century” by Hester Anne Hale, a lovely lady that we unfortunately lost a couple of years ago. I took her out to lunch to learn more about her–she had been a school teacher. And what an inspiring one she must have been! She seemed gentle but firm, self-possessed and independent–and single (further inspiration for me!)
Excerpt from the chapter “From Buggies to Motor Cars”
“…In 1903 Carl Fisher, a man who had been one of the city’s first car dealers, was fast becoming Indianapolis’ greatest sports promoter. One day late in March he challenged a comptetitor, Conrad Mueller, to a race to Columbus, Indiana. Fisher was then selling Oldsmobiles; Mueller was a Cadillac dealer. There was a $500 prize for the winner. The race began at 9:00 a.m. on Monument Circle. Earl Fisher, Carl’s brother, drove the Olds, and W.A.Carr drove the Cadillac. With each man was a representative of the competitor.
South on Illinois Street the two cars chugged, through the tunnel by Union Station, east across South Street to Virginia Avenue, then out Shelby Street, headed south for Columbus. Earl Fisher somehow took the wrong road. His brother, following in a Winton, honked to alert him but Earl, taking it for applause, kept on. Then he got caught in the mud. Rescued, he found the right road only to be mired down again. Carl assisted, and the Olds was back on the road. At Southport the Cadillac pulled ahead only to get caught in the mud. The Olds pulled ahead at Franklin. Two miles north of Columbus the Cadillac’s bearings gave out. The Olds stopped in Columbus before starting back. As it passed the Cadillac, Fisher hollered, “Get a horse!” The Cadillac did reach Columbus that afternoon–pulled there by horses.”
Ever heard the name Lemon Trotter? Seems he was in real estate and was the person who located the sufficient amount of level ground for the track on the “Old Pressley”(hmm–any relation to Elvis, perhaps? -spellings evolved, you know) farm on the western edge of Indianapolis. The lands were acquired for $72,000.
Never knew that the date for racing–May 30th was selected because it “was midway between corn planting and haying, so that rural Indiana could come to the race.”
“The town of Speedway City, as it was originally called, was platted in 1912 on acreage owned by Fisher, Allison, Newby and Wheeler. Fisher conceived the idea of building ‘an industrial city devoted to the motorization of all traffic,’ a horseless city. ‘Fisher was the dreamer,’ said his friend Lem Trotter, ‘but Allison had the most brilliant mind of any man I ever knew. He was the industrialist.’ ”
Personality descriptions are also included therewith:
“Allison was a fun-loving man. Fisher has been described as ‘a barrel-chested, smiling man with intense eyes and a lusty personality.’ Carl Fisher was the promoter, his ultimate project being the development of Miami Beach. And Allison was assoicated with him there.” Fisher is also described as “flamboyant.”