- Indianapolis Motor Speedway Programs -

The Early Years * 1909-1916


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Programs from *1909 through May of 1910 are 10" long x 6 3/4" wide except for the 1909 Balloon Race which is narrower, with most having page numbers. The cost was ten cents.

The first "race" at the Speedway was a balloon race held June 5th of 1909. Only about 3500 spectators paid to get in (another 40,000 watched from outside the track for free) to watch the American Aero Club Championship making this program extremely rare. The program is printed in only two colors and is four pages long counting the front and back of the pages but not counting the printing on the inside of the front and back covers. There are no page numbers.

Note that Speedway President Carl Fisher is one of the "Men Prominent in Aeronautics".

The back cover is similar to those of the other 1909 programs as it features the road course version of the Speedway.

The National Motorcycle Race Meet of August 13th & 14th 1909 featured the first motorized races held at the Speedway. The overall low attendance (the second days races were called off due to accidents from poor track conditions) makes the National Motorcycle Race Meet program extremely rare. The back cover has an ad for G & J Tires instead of the aerial view of the track.

The August 19th-21st auto races were far better attended than the motorcycle races of the week before, but the programs are still very rare. The Aug. 21st 300 mile final race was called at the 235 mile mark as several lives were lost in accidents due to the poor condition of the crushed stone and tar surface. There are programs for all three August race dates and the covers are the same with the August 21st cover shown below. There are at least two different programs for the Aug. 20th races where the covers are the same, but there is a different ad at the bottom of one enrty page. It is uncertain if there are other versions of the 19th or 21st programs. The back cover features an aerial view of the track with the road course in the infield which is very similar to several post cards put out at the time. Each days program has the full date ie. August 19th, 1909, on the entry page(s) inside. There are no page numbers.

After the tragic August auto races, the track was paved with 3.2 million bricks in 93 days! There was a "brick test" on December 17th-18th of 1909 consisting of speed trials and a 20 mile race and although it was a free event, it was very cold and only approx. 500 people showed. The program for the Brick Test has front and back covers identical to the August races. The way to identify this from other identical covered programs are the December 17th and 18th dates listed inside the program.

Note the dates of December 17 and 18 on this partical page from the 1909 Brick Test program.

In 1910 there were several events scheduled: Memorial Day weekend, July 4th weekend and Labor Day weekend auto races, a June Aviation Meet and a September National Championship Balloon Meet.

There are three programs from May 1910: May 27th, May 28th and May 30th. The covers of the Memorial Day programs are virtually identical to the August 1909 programs and again, with no dates to distinguish them, the way to tell them apart is by contents and the scoring/entry pages which are dated. The back cover remains the same. The May 27th has an ad for Hudson and Clark Cars on page 17 and a Kurtz Magnetos ad on page 39. The May 28th and 30th programs have those two ads switched.

The program size for the June Aviation Meet (June 13-18) changed to a more square 7 1/2" long x 9 1/4" wide format with no date on the cover but it does have page numbers. The back cover changes with a slightly different aerial view and the road course eliminated from the infield.

The July 4th (Races were scheduled for July 1,2 and 4 - it is not sure if the Speedway produced programs for all three days as was done for Aug. 1909 and May 1910 or only one program to cover the three days races) program follows the same format as the August 1909 and 1910 Memorial Day programs except the border to the center picture is gray verses blue. The car at center as also a different shade of red from those of 1909 and others from 1910. The writting at the bottom is similar to that of the 1909 programs. At the top it reads: "THE INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY - GREATEST RACE COURSE IN THE WORLD" and at the bottom, "The Inner Grounds are used for Aviation Field and Balloon Park. The Track is Two and One-half Miles in Circumference."

The "Indianapolis In The Limelight" program is *believed to be a free program to promote the Speedway and Indianapolis in 1910 and was *believed to have been printed and distributed after the June Aviation Meet. There is a Michelin tire ad on page 36 listing their accomplishments in 1910 so far with one of them being wins at Memorial Day races in Decatur Illinois. Also, there are no entry lists which would indicate it is not for a specific auto racing event. However, there is one picture of an airplane which states that it is at the Speedway which may or may not be from the June Aviaiton Meet. The cover does not say "Official Program" or "10 Cents" however, it does say "Indianapolis In The Limelight" at center between the two Wing & Wheel logos. It is the same size as the June Aviation Meet program and there are 64 numbered pages. The back cover on both programs changes with a slightly different aerial view and the road course eliminated from the infield. This program is a preview of what programs would look like, but that would have to wait until the September Auto Races were run.
This program lists a 24 hour race scheduled for Aug. 12 & 13 with a balloon meet to be held before the 8pm. start of the 24 hour race. *Due to dwindling crowds, the race was cancelled as was the scheduled balloon meet.

The Labor Day 1910 (Races were scheduled for Sept. 2,3 and 5 - it is not sure if the Speedway produced programs for all three days as was done for Aug. 1909 and May 1910 or only one program to cover the three days races) program is the same format as the July 1910 race program. The back cover is similar to the June Aviation Meet and July auto races programs with only the wording added at the top and changed at the bottom being the only differences.

*It is believed there is a program for the Sept. 17, 1910 National Championship Balloon Meet as well.

Attendance began to wane in the latter part of 1910 as the novelty of the Speedway wore off therefore these pre-'500' programs are very rare to come by.


Carl Fisher and the other three owners of the Speedway agreed that they needed one special race for the Speedway. After debating various aspects for this special race, it was decided that a distance of 500 miles would be the best choice from all stand points. Memorial Day May 30, 1911 was chosen as the date for the first Indianapolis 500. The cover for the first '500' program is seen below at left. It has no page numbers and can be distinguished from the 1912 by the gray border to the inner picture and gray car while the 1912 has a blue border and blue car. The size is the same 7 1/2" long x 9 1/4" wide format with no date on the cover like that of the 1910 Aviation Meet and "Indianapolis In The Limelight" programs. 1912 is again nearly identical to the 1911 with no date on the cover but there are page numbers.

The 1913 cover is very close to the 1911 with it's gray border to the inner picture, but it's the first year for a '500' program to place the date on the cover (at bottom),"Official Program" at the top and have page numbers. On page twenty-two, an error was discovered and corrected (note the "ERRATA..." to the left margin of pg. 22) in later programs. It is unclear how many of un-corrected and corrected progams were made. (The ERRATA... is printed in red - this picture is from the 1913 re-print program.)

The 1914, '15 and '16 programs are a change from previous years although bland in design comparison. The '14 is brown and white, the '15 green and white and the 1916 is blue and white. All have the date on the cover and have page numbers. Beginning in 1914, the phrase "Price Ten Cents Pay No More" was added to the cover. Due to the 1916 race being a 300 instead of a 500 mile race, the cover reads only as "Sixth Annual International Sweepstakes Race" with "500 Mile" removed.

Two unusual pre-war programs have surfaced. They are the 1914 First International W.D.A. Sweepstakes and the 1915 War in Indiana programs.
The cover of the September 22, 1914 First International W.D.A. Sweepstakes is virtually identical to the 1915 Indianapolis 500 program with only the name and date of the event being the only differences. The Stutz ad on the back of the program mentions "visiting druggists" and with a little research, it was found that the W.D.A stands for the Wholesale Druggists Association which was founded in Indianapolis in 1876. More research determined that the names on the entrant list were the names of druggists. Since the race was courtesy of the Cole Motor Company, it is believed the 11 drivers in the field were driving Coles, and were entered by the various druggists.

The 1915 "War in Indiana" program is for a military tournament held September 6th, 1915 sponsored by the Indianapolis Armory Building Association. This organization was founded in August 1914 for the purpose of building the first Armory in Indianapolis for the National Guard. Speedway co-founder Carl Fisher was a member of the board and volunteered the Speedway for this event. All proceeds from the event were to be used to build the armory.

Both programs are the same size but with fewer pages than the "500" programs of the same year. Not only are these two programs unusual, but they can be considered very rare with probably only a handful left in existence after nearly one hundred years.

Due to the threat of the United States entering World War I and the possibility of the Speedway having to shut down, the Speedway decided to hold the "Harvest Auto Racing Classic" on Sept. 9th of 1916 which consisted of 3 races of varying lengths. No more than 10,000 spectators attended the event, therefore this is an extremely rare program to acquire. It is taller but narrower than the 1916 May program with a light tan cover with gold & black writing. If the Harvest Auto Racing Classic program followed the same format as the May 1916 program, then it would have page numbers, but it is not certain whether it does or not. The phrase "Pay No More" was dropped from this program.

Noted Indiana poet James Whitcomb Riley even wrote a short verse across the hay stacks at lower left.

Attendance at the Speedway for the '500' events (the 1916 race was a 300 mile race due to several reasons) was better than ever, therefore programs are easier to find than the 1909-10 era programs but they are still very tough and rare to find. The 1912 and 1916 are the toughest of this era to find then 1911 with 1913,14 & 15 about the same.


1919-1929 1930-1941 1946-1955 1956-1975 1976-2010 2011-present Reprints Bootleg & Unofficial


To learn more about the early days of the Speedway, it is suggested you read "500 Miles to Go" by Al Bloemker.

Much of the information about dates, attendance etc. for these early events were obtained from this book.

* This information is to the best of our knowledge. If anyone has more information, please contact: NI500CC@NI500CC.COM or dar500@indy.rr.com