- Indianapolis Motor Speedway Panoramic Photos -

* 1909 - Present * -


An interesting collecting area of Indianapolis Motor Speedway memorabilia are panoramic photos. Since the opening balloon race of June 1909 through 1957 and later on in various years since then, panoramic photos have been produced with several different photographers credited with making them and a variety of types and sizes produced. *Bretzman and North H. Losey, of Indianapolis and H.H Coburn (Coburn Photo & Film Co.) were the predominant photographers in the pre-World War I era at the Speedway.

After WWI, Kirkpatrick of Indianapolis became the official photographer of the Speedway and they produced panoramic photos into the late 1930's where at that time *Tower Photos became the official Speedway photographers and began to produce panoramic photos with Charles J. Bell given credit as the photographer.

After World War II, *Tower Photos continued to produce the photos as did *O'Dell Shields, famous for their black & white postcards, in the 1950's.

In 1979 the Speedway took a color panoramic photo from the top of the Control Tower and in 1993, one was taken in the press box area at the end of the Paddock Grandstand. For the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994, a traditional line up picture was shot at the start finish line and the same was done for the inaugural U.S. Grand Prix in 2000. Some of these later photos were available as posters and also photographs.

For the Balloon race of June 5th, 1909 a panoramic photo was produced taken from the infield facing east showing the balloons and spectators there for the event. It measures 38" long x 7 1/2" wide and is in black & white as are all panoramic photos through 1957.

There may be a panoramic of the Motorcycle events of August 13-14th, 1909, although one has not been found yet but there is one for the Auto Races the following weekend and it is perhaps the largest Speedway panoramic coming in at 5' 1" long x nearly 10" wide. Many of the pre-World War I panoramics were of this large size. The 1909 Auto Races photo was taken from the infield facing west or toward the track and in the area about 30 yards behind where the scoring pylon is today.

There are panoramics of the 1910 Auto Races and of the Aviation meet, but it is uncertain if there is one for the Balloon Races in September. The one shown below is a reproduction.

1910 Aviation Meet

Beginning in 1911, a traditional line up before the start was taken for the first time at the Speedway with the drivers and mechanics lining up on the start finish line with the panoramic camera on the ground, on a platform or on the back of a truck.


Other panoramic views were shot during the pre-WWI era, some similar to that of the 1909 Auto Races and others taken from other angles along the front stretch or even the turns as in 1912 from the outside of turn one which was also made into a panoramic post card.

One of the prizes for sixth place in 1913 was this panoramic photo.

Coburn produced probably the widest at 14" and the shortest is the 1947 and just under 2' long. By the 1920's, the size stabilized to around 3' to 4' long by about 8-10" wide and remained so through 1957. The later color panoramics vary in size from 4-5' in length to around 2-3' and a width of 8-10".

This color panoramic from 1963 is a little bigger than the 1947 and appears to be taken from the Tower grandstand.

An aerial panoramic taken in the late 90's or early 2000's is still available at the Speedway.

A shot taken before the 2005 race from "B" or "E" Grandstand.

Noted aviatrix Amelia Earhart was an honored guest in 1935 and is seen in the panoramic photograph next to Speedway President Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker.

Auto racing panoramic photos were not just limited to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as there are those from other tracks as seen in the 1915 Minneapolis and 1921 San Francisco photos below.

1957 was the last year for the traditional line up as the teams felt they needed the time to continue preparation of their cars for the race. As mentioned though, there were ones done later, but not quite to the extent of the 1909 through 1957 period.

A couple of interesting aspects about panoramic photos is the distorted view of the track bowing out toward oneself due to the nature of panoramic cameras. This is especially true on early panoramics taken from a different angle other than the line up.

Also, because the camera moved slow enough, one could run to the other side and appear in the photo twice as seen with Chief Timer & Scorer Chester Ricker (in the white suit wearing the beret) and the mechanic in the white t-shirt next to him in the 1941 photo.

As for rarity, the pre-WWI era panoramics are the toughest to come by. After WWI through the 1920's, they they do become easier to find, but are by no means common. By the 1930's & 40's, they are easier than the 1920's, but are still not too common. As of a few years ago, some post WWII panoramics were available from the Speedway and these can be found with patience. Current day panoramics should still be available from the Speedway's photo shop


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