Saturday, June 27, 2015

The history of the
W.D. “Eddie” Edenburn Memorial Trophy

This vintage photograph of the Edenburn trophy in the original IMS museum appears courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the IUPUI University Indianapolis Library's Center of Digital Scholoarship 

One of most unique trophies of all the treasures in the Hall of Fame and Museum collection at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the Waldo Dane “Eddie” Edenburn Memorial Trophy, a large wooden electric clock cabinet that stands about five feet tall. This article looks at the man behind the trophy.

After years of working around the “racing game” in various capacities,  which included leading many early automobile tours to promote better roads and prove the durability of automobiles, in May 1919, ‘Eddie’ Edenburn accepted the role for which he became world famous. 

In 1919, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway did not have the position of ‘Chief Steward’ on its organizational chart.  Eddie replaced former Speedway manager Charles W. Sedwick as one of the representatives of the AAA contest board and soon began to expand his role for the betterment of our sport.

Over the next few years, Edenburn created the role of the Indianapolis ‘500’ “Chief Steward,” a term he borrowed from his nautical activities.  Eddie eventually commanded a force of 150 officials who were involved with all the operational aspects of running the world’s greatest single day sporting event. Eddie’s minions governed the technical aspects of the cars, inspections, qualifications of the drivers, the timing and scoring and the actual running and control of the race itself.

This vintage photograph of the Eddie Edenburn in 1927 museum appears courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the IUPUI University Indianapolis Library's Center of Digital Scholoarship 

The short stocky bespectacled Edenburn presented a unique sartorial appearance, often clad in a newsboy cap with a checkered sport coat, tie, and knickers with knee socks wearing his AAA armband. Eddie always seemed to have an unlit cigar clamped in his mouth, and though he did not smoke, Edenburn carried two lighters with him at all times “for the convenience of my friends.” 

A photograph of the image that appeared on a box of Eddie Edenburn cigars. 

Edenburn and his trademark cigar became so famed that the Schwartz Bernard Cigar Company in Eddie’s hometown of Detroit Michigan produced and sold Eddie Edenburn cigars!

Eddie described as a man “too busy to light his own cigar” was almost universally beloved and always willing to help his friends whether it was a car owner, track official, mechanic, or driver. We must say “almost” because a May 12 1932 editorial in the Delphi Indiana Journal with the headline “A little man shall command them” described Edenburn as the “Napoleonic czar” and a “half pint Mussolini of the speedway that smokes cigars almost as large as he is” who “kept the racing giants under his tiny thumb.” The racing community of the era knew better than the miffed editorial writer that Eddie, while firmly charge, was friendly and treated everyone with respect.

In 1921, Edenburn left his long-time position as the automotive editor of the Detroit News and became General Manager of the Michigan Automotive Trade Association and the Detroit Automobile Dealers Association, a position he held for the rest of his life. In addition to his “day job” and his role as the official AAA representative to the Indianapolis ‘500,’ Eddie also served as the AAA zone supervisor for Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. Edenburn also appeared as an AAA official in many capacities at races across the country.

Curiously, for the man that controlled America’s best-known auto racing event, Edenburn did not drive an automobile, as he stated in an interview he had lost interest in driving during 1922. In early October 1933 while Eddie returned home from an evening business meeting the automobile in which he rode left an icy road near Bay City Michigan and crashed into a tree. 

The impact instantly killed the driver of the car Eddie’s brother-in-law, Earl Jelf, but Eddie himself escaped with cuts, bruises a broken hand and broken ribs. Edenburn was later quoted “I’ve had auto accidents and motor boating accidents, and I may have aviation accidents. One thing's sure - when a man's number is up, he gets it. Not before.”

Edenburn did not die as the result of an accident however. On September 18 1934 Eddie suddenly collapsed was rushed to a Detroit hospital where he was diagnosed with uremic poisoning. Though he was hospitalized, Eddie’s condition quickly worsened and he passed away at age 49 on September 21 1934. As writers across the country wrote lengthy heartfelt tributes to the nation’s best-known automobile and boat racing official, Edenburn was laid to rest in Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis, the final resting place for many of racing’s greatest names.

Later in 1934, the American Power Boat Association (APBA) for which Edenburn served as secretary announced the creation of the W.D. Edenburn Memorial perpetual trophy for the 225 cubic inch racing class.   On April 1 1937, Indianapolis Motor Speedway vice president Theodore “Pop” Myers  announced that the ‘friends of Edenburn’ had commissioned a trophy to honor Eddie’s tireless efforts on behalf of the sport, to be awarded annually to the person who made the year’s greatest contribution to auto racing.

In the years since its inception, the criteria for the awarding of the W.D. Edenburn Memorial Trophy has changed from an individual’s annual contributions to the sport to one which recognizes a worthy individual’s lifetime achievement to our sport. 

During the 1973 USAC (United States Auto Club) annual awards banquet, Tony Hulman accepted the trophy as a permanent part of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway collection. Eddie Edenburn was inducted as member of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame in 1986.

This a partial list of recipients of the W.D. Edenburn Memorial Trophy

Michael J. Boyle 1939
Louis Schwitzer 1940
Earl Gilmore 1941
Not awarded 1942-1945
Anton “Tony” Hulman 1946
Colonel A.W. Harrington 1947
Lee Oldfield 1948
Theodore E. “Pop” Myers 1949
Arthur C Pillsbury 1950
J.C. Agajanian 1951
Tom Marchese 1952
Clarence Beesemyer 1953
Raymond Firestone 1954
Warren “Wilbur” Shaw 1955 (awarded posthumously)
Clarence Cagle 1958
J. Gordon Betz 1959
C. H. Wallbrich 1960
Henry Banks 1962
Harlan Fengler 1969
Russ Clendenen 1982
Ted Halibrand & A. J. Watson 1983
Joe Cloutier 1984
Al Bloemeker 1985
John Cooper 1986
Charles Thompson 1987
Tom Carnegie 1988
Jack Beckley 1989
Roger McCluskey 1990
A.J. Foyt Jr. 1991
Arthur Meyers 1992
Roger Penske 1993
Charlie Brockman 1994
Dan Cotter 1995
Anton George 1996
Keith Ward 1997
Bob Higman 1998
Robert Moorhead (USAC board) 1999
Henry Ryder (USAC board) 2000
Johnny Capels 2001
Mike Devin 2002
Don Smith 2003
Burdette Martin (ACCUS president) 2004
Donald Davidson 2005
Tommy Hunt 2006
Bill France Jr. 2008
Sid Collins – year unknown

With his 16 years of service Eddie Edenburn set the mark for longevity of Indianapolis Motor Speedway Chief Stewards. It was not until his final year of service in 1973 that Harlan Fengler, whose erratic personality and management style was the exact opposite of Edenburn’s, tied the 16-race record. 

Fengler’s replacement, Thomas Binford, then broke Edenburn's record as he oversaw twenty-two 500-mile races in a professional business-like manner as had Edenburn,  before he retired.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Indianapolis Motor Speedway employees behind the scenes

Tony Hulman, left and Wilbur Shaw, right, talk with Eddie Rickenbacker, center in 1945 

After Anton “Tony” Hulman, Jr. a businessman from Terre Haute Indiana purchased the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for $750,000 from Eddie Rickenbacker on November 14, 1945, Mr. Hulman understandably installed his own hand-picked management staff that included 3-time Indianapolis 500 winner Wilbur Shaw as President and General Manager with longtime Hulman-owned Clabber Girl Baking Powder Company vice-president Joseph Cloutier as treasurer.

Eloise "Dolly" Dallenbach

Don Burge

Hulman retained several key personnel from the Rickenbacker era, chief among them Theodore E. ‘Pop” Myers who had been the general manager at the Speedway since 1915, and Eloise “Dolly” Dallenbach, who had served as Myer’s secretary and the Speedway auditor since both were hired by James Allison in 1910, and the ticket sales manager since 1937, Don Burge.  

Joe Quinn, left, and Clarence Cagle, right 

The names of several of the other people involved in the Tony Hulman management team at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are well-known to race fans, such as Superintendent Clarence Cagle, Safety Director Joe Quinn (who also promoted the Hoosier 100) and Public Relations chief Al Bloemeker, but today’s article will examine the lives of three other Hulman associates, little-known to the public, but integral to the success of the great racing plant. 


Leonard Marshall poses with his first wife, Anita in 1952

One of the men present in the private meeting room at the Indianapolis Athletic Club on North Meridian Street to finalize the sale that historic November day was Leonard Marshall of Terre Haute, Hulman’s personal attorney. Marshall was a Terre Haute native the son of Buena Vista Marshall one of the first attorneys in Vigo County Indiana and a graduate of Indiana University. He was admitted to the Indiana bar in 1922 and joined his father’s practice in 1925.

With Hulman’s purchase, Marshall became the secretary of the new Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation. In that role, Marshall advised the Speedway board of its roles and responsibilities, recorded the minutes of board meetings, and managed all the corporation records until he retired from the Speedway at the end of 1968.

Away from the Speedway and his law practice, Marshall was extremely active in civic and political affairs and a number of Terre Haute businesses; most notably he served as President of the First National Bank of Terre Haute for 30 years. Under his control, the bank’s assets grew from $49 million to over $135 million. Marshall also served on the board of directors of the Home Packing Company (before its destruction in 1963) and was the past President of the Union Hospital.  

It was in the latter role that he met his second wife, having become a widower in 1963. His second wife, Ellen Church, was the Administrator of the 250-bed Union Hospital, but most interestingly, was both a pilot and a registered nurse, and the world’s first female flight attendant, having flown on a Boeing Air Transport flight from San Francisco to Chicago on May 15 1930. Ellen Church Marshall died in horse riding accident on August 22, 1965, 11 days short of the couples’ first anniversary.  Leonard Marshall himself passed away in September 1970 survived by his son daughter and his third wife.

Ms. Frances Welker chats with her boss, T.E. 'Pop' Myers

‘Pop’ Myer’s secretary and the Speedway’s original auditor, Eloise S. “Dolly” Dallenbach, credited with the idea of paying the lap leaders of the ‘500’ which began in 1920 retired in 1947. Miss Frances Marie Welker a 40-year old native of Vernon Indiana whose father Ed and mother Almada ran the hotel in Vernon was hired to replace Ms. Dallenbach. 

As the auditor for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation, Frances Welker was responsible to insure that the company’s financial statements fairly represented a true picture and to establish internal financial controls. Like all the key Speedway personnel Ms. Welker annually received a Pace Car replica to drive during the month of May.

In addition to her official duties, “Fran” often supplied inquiring newspaper reporters with factual information for articles about the Speedway, such the number of full-time Speedway employees during the off season (95-100).  It is unclear when Ms. Welker retired from the Speedway, but after her retirement she returned to southeastern Indiana and settled in North Vernon Indiana (Pat O’Connor’s hometown) where she passed away on November 4 1993.


This photograph of Ms. Derr appeared in the 1986 Indianapolis 500 Official Program- author's collection

There was another Frances who worked in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway office at the corner of 16th Street and Georgetown Road – Frances E. Derr, the Director of ticket sales. Ms. Derr succeeded her boss, Don Burge, following his passing at age 49 on August 2 1951. 

Ms. Derr, a native of the south central Indiana town of Boonville was the granddaughter of John Derr, an innovator in the manufacture of extracts and flavorings for soda fountains, and manufacturer of Derr’s Soda.

Hired by Tony Hulman in 1945, after 35 years of service, Ms. Derr retired from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1980, but continued to work part-time in the Speedway office, commuting several days a week from her nearby home on West 44th Street.  

Ms. Derr, born in 1917, disappeared on December 20, 1985, and her niece reported her missing to the police. At 4 AM on December 22, 1985, Derr’s body was found inside her unlocked car in the parking lot of the Lafayette Square Shopping Center, just 2 miles from the Speedway.   An autopsy revealed that she had been strangled and beaten several hours before her body was found.

The Indianapolis Police suspected robbery as the motive, but the killer of Frances Derr was never found. The 1986 Indianapolis ‘500’ program contained  a memorial page dedicated to Frances Derr which did not mention the cause of her demise, and closed by stating “her loyalty and dedication to the Speedway and the Indianapolis 500-mile race has been unparalleled and she will be dearly missed by all who knew her.”      

All the black and white photographs that accompany this article appear courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Collection in the IUPUI University Indianapolis Library Center for Digital Studies.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

It was not really gold..............

On December 14, 1909, workers laid the last of 3.2 million 10-pound street paving bricks on a 2-inch sand base around the 2- ½ mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval. After the surface was rolled to seat them in the sand base, the more than three million bricks were fixed into their final location with a mixture of equal parts sand and cement. 

The final 'gold' brick, actually made of gold-plated brass, was laid in a special ceremony by Indiana Governor Thomas R. Marshall accompanied by Carl Fisher, James Allison, Arthur Newby Newby and Frank Wheeler, the founders of the Speedway.

The 'gold brick' idea was the brain child of Ernest ‘Ernie’ Moross, the first publicity man for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, who formerly promoted for barnstorming racer  Berna ‘Barney’ Oldfield. Unfortunately, legend has it that the “gold” brick only spent a couple days in its intended location before it was stolen and never recovered.

Tony Hulman holds the 1961 'gold' brick with Ray Harroun, left and  Louis Schwitzer, right look on. Photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Collection in IUPUI University Library Center for Digital Studies 

In October 1961, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway completed a massive asphalt paving project, which paved over the last of the paving bricks on the main straightaway, except for a 3-foot section at the start-finish line. The completion of the 1961 project was marked by the ceremonial placement of a 'gold' brick in the “yard of bricks,” with a group of witnesses that included 1911 winner Ray Harroun, Speedway President Anton “Tony” Hulman Jr, and Louis Schwitzer, the long-time chairman of the Technical Committee, and winner of the first race held on the Speedway, a five-mile preliminary event held on August 19 1909.

The 1961 'gold' brick on display in the IMS Museum 
Author photo 

Through the years, to avoid a repeat of the theft of the original “gold” brick, the second 39-pound gold brick was kept in a safe in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway office at the corner of Georgetown Road and 16th Street and was only placed in the track for special occasions. The truth is that the 1961 version of the gold brick was really not gold but Dirilyte, a “gold-hued” bronze metal alloy manufactured in Kokomo Indiana.

A photo of Dirilyte flatware 
Photo courtesy The Dirilyte Company

The Dirilyte story began with the Swedish metallurgist Carl Molin who first created what he called the “Dirigold” alloy in 1914. The Swedish Dirigold Company grew slowly until 1923 when Molin and his partner Oscar Von Malmburg exhibited and sold a line of flatware at a Swedish exposition. While at the exposition, they were approached by a group of Swedish-Americans who urged the partners to expand their sales to the United States.

By 1926, Dirigold sales in the United States under Von Malmburg’s guidance had grown to the point that Molin and six of his key employees and their families relocated to Kokomo Indiana to start a new United States manufacturing operation. The Dirigold factory we established in a building on State Avenue in Kokomo that had once been the home of the recently defunct Haynes automobile factory.

Molin also created a coarser harder grade bronze alloy known as “Alcobronze” which was used primarily for builder’s hardware such as door hinges and handles and for industrial purposes. Curiously, neither alloy was protected by patent, as the company’s founders instead elected to maintain the secrecy of the formula.

At its peak, the Dirilyte Company produced a large line of products. 
Photo courtesy of The Dirilyte Company 

Unfortunately, by the time that Molin worked out the Dirigold manufacturing bugs and scaled up production, the Great Depression hit the company hard, as sales dropped and the little firm was forced into receivership in 1930. The company limped along for several years but finally the company’s assets were sold ay auction in 1935 to satisfy outstanding debts. 

The company’s assets were purchased by a group of Kokomo businessmen who renamed the company American Dirigold Corporation to manufacture and sell “Dirigold” flatware, serving trays, bowls, and hollowware. The first obstacle for the new company to overcome was a Federal Trade Commission lawsuit that claimed the “Dirigold” name misled consumers as the alloy used to manufacture the products did not contain any gold. 

To resolve the lawsuit, the company and its products were renamed “Dirilyte.” The next problem was a lawsuit against a rival firm the Dirigold Metals Corporation based in New Jersey that claimed it held the license to manufacture Dirigold in the United States, which was finally resolved on appeal in 1939.

Major Bowes' Airflow Limousine
photo courtesy of the Walter P. Chrysler Museum

In 1937, the famous amateur radio talent program host Edward “Major” Bowes took delivery of a custom-built Chrysler Series CW Airflow Custom Imperial limousine to add to his collection of ten fine automobiles. The Chrysler connection was understandable since Bowes’ radio program was sponsored by Chrysler Motors.

One of only three CW limousines built in by the Detroit coachbuilder LeBaron during 1937- the other customers were Milton Hershey, founder of the chocolate company and Elpidio Quirino the President of the Philippines. The limousine differed from the rest of the Airflow line in that it had a curved one-piece windshield, as was used in the original 1934 Airflow Triton prototype.

The CW limousine listed at $5145.00, but Bowes’ Brewster green and gold-trimmed automobile cost $25,000 - equivalent to over $850,000 today. It rode on a massive 146.5-inch wheelbase chassis and was powered by a 385 cubic inch nine main bearing straight eight engine rated at 145 horsepower.

Bowes’ car included such features as a wooden writing desk, twin swivel seats for his secretaries, a built-in electric razor, two-way radio telephone, two humidors, and an ash tray. Bowes’ custom Imperial also featured a console between the passenger compartment and the driver which contained a stainless steel “thermal compartment.” 

The car also featured a fully-stocked bar, and all the metal trim and decorative fixtures in the passenger compartment crafted from Dirilyte with jade handles. “The sweetest chariot in the land” was featured in Look magazine in 1940, and currently is displayed at the Walter P. Chrysler Museum.

Even though the Speedway’s 1961 brick isn’t really gold, it is solid Dirilyte and it is still valuable, as Dirilyte products were not cheap, as in 1962, a single five-piece set of flatware sold for the equivalent of $150 today. The Dirilyte Company was sold to Hand Industries and in 1971, the factory relocated from Kokomo to Warsaw Indiana before Dirilyte finally ceased manufacturing operations in 1986.  

The 2011 IMS 'gold brick'
photo courtesy of

Prior to the running of the 2011 Indianapolis ‘500,’ The Indianapolis Motor Speedway repeated the “gold brick” placement in 2011 for the celebration of the 500-mile race’s centennial, which was attended by Mari Hulman George, Tony’s daughter, Jeff Belskus, the president of Hulman and Company, and the first four-time Indianapolis ‘500’ winner A. J. Foyt. 

The actual construction of the 2011 commemorative brick is unknown to the author – do any our readers know?