Monday, May 11, 2015

Indy 500 - Speedway, Town of Tomorrow

Speedway, Indiana - the city of the future! Now there's a phrase you won't hear often. But, back in 1912, when the founders of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's private town was laid out, Speedway was taking a dramatic step. It was about to become one of the few cities in the United States to have an outright ban on non-motor-driven vehicles. Yes, Speedway was banning horses.

The reason? Progress? An eye toward the future? The elimination of animal waste? No, the reason was simple, Speedway was planned and paid for by the likes of Carl G. Fisher (owner of possibly the first automotive dealership in the United States), James A. Alison (inventor of the Allison Perfection Fountain Pen and co-founder of Pres-O-Lite, a manufacturer of automotive headlights and eventually president of the Allison Engine Company), Frank Wheeler (manufacturer of carburetors and founder of the Wheeler-Schebler Carburetor Company), and Frank Newby (founder of the Indianapolis Stamping and Chain Company and owner of the winning car in the 1912 Indy 500). It goes without saying that all of these men had invested their time and money in founding the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, what seems a little over the top is the fact that they decided a part of founding their own private town would be outlawing the humble equine.

On its founding, the Speedway City Hall was owned by flunkies and political appointees with a vested interest in the automotive industry. The people of Speedway would work for the automotive industry, in what essentially was a company town, and they'd be forced to buy the company's products.  In the end was this city of the future really that much different than a coal mining town in West Virginia? The answer probably is no, and even though the automobile rules America today, the men who founded Speedway weren't really visionaries so much as robber barons in the truest sense of the gilded age during which they were born, backward looking men intent on enslaving the people of their private toy-town to the turning of the crankshaft.

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