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Pre-Indy 500 Races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
From left to right are: Frank Samuel Lahm, Major James C. McCoy who was the first
person to obtain a balloon license, Colonel A. L. Fulton, Major Harry R. Vaughn,
Colonel James Prentice, Major R. Lazaire, Colonel Henry B. Hersey.
About These 1909-1910 Web Pages
National Championship Entrants:

H.E. Honeywell - St Louis - Centennial
Wooster Lambert, aid

William T. Assmann - St Louis - Miss Sophia
Paul McCullough, aid

S. Louis von Phul - St Louis -Million Population club
Joseph O'Reilly, aid

J.J. Wade, Jr. - Cleveland - Buckeye
A.H. Morgan, aid

Clifford B. Harman - New York - New York
T.S. Balwin,aid

Alan R. Hawley - New York - American II
August Pest, aid

Arthur T. Atherholt - Philadelphia - Pessnyvania
Conyers B. Graham, aid

Charles Walsh - Kingston, NY - Hoosier
Colonel Samuel Beber, aid

C.G. Fisher - Indianapolis - Indiana II
George L. Bumbaugh, aid


Captain John Berry - St Louis - University City
H.W. Jacobs - Topeka Kas - Topeka
Albert Holz - Cincinnati - Drifter
Dr. L.E. Custer - Dayton - Luzerne
More balloons started in the two big events at the Indianapolis
Motor Speedway than had ever been assembled at any other
meet in the U.S.  

Nine balloons were entered to start the National Championship
race.  There were 4 balloons entered in the free-for-all race.

The work filling the giant gas bags began on Friday, the day
before the race.

The balloons in the race last year were inflated in front of the
bleachers on the south side of the speedway.  To give the public
better accommodations the management of the speedway had
the gas mains extended and a new filling station was established
in front of the grand stands about opposite the finish line on the
brick track.

As the balloons are made ready to sail, each one was carried
forward to a point between the two grand tsands and released
from the top of a little knoll near the edge of the track.  This
enabled the people in both stands to see the balloons at close

The start of the National Championship race began at 3 o'clock,
as a balloon is released one at a time, in short intervals.  The
ballons are perfectly ballasted before being carried forward to
the starting point, so that all that is neccessary for the pilot to do
is to throw out a handful of and and drift away.
The pilots hoped for a strong northeast wind that would carry
them across into Canada and toward Nova Scotia.

The long distance record in this country is 852 miles, made by
Oscar Erlsbock who sailed from St. Louis to the New Jersey

The pilots all hoped to beat that record, but were at the whims of
the wind.  It was possible for them to take advantage of adverse
upper air currents in case they started away in a wind not to their
The pilots had an instrument to record their altitude and a battery
powered flashlight to see it at night.  They estimated their speed
and tried to guess their location.  Their most important item that
they carried with them was their ballast because without it, they
were at the mercy of depressing air currents.

The pilots, trying to save weight, carefully chose the things they took
with them.  They would take blankets and rain coats for the
weather.  They carried a rifle and ammo in case they landed in the
wilderness.  A life preserver was taken in case they landed in water.
The took medicines and stimulants, small cans of soup, coffee and
edibles and plenty of water.
The government wished to be represented in the race and sent
Lieutenant T.B. Estey of Omaha of the 14th regiment of cavalry to
Indianapolis to try and be taken up as an aid.  C.G. Fisher made
an effort to get him placed with one of the racers.
John Berry was one of the most experienced aeronauts in the
country.  Everyone was surprised that he did not enter the
Championship Race.  He said he did not want to race his old
balloon, the University City, and that his new balloon would not
be completed in time.

He won the championship last year with that balloon, flying 383
miles from the speedway - down to Ft. Payne Alabama.

Instead he would race the University City in the free-for-all
race.  He was going to take a newspaper woman from St
Louis with him, but at the last moment, her employers refused
to allow her to enter.  Berry invited any Indianapolis newspaper
woman to take her place, saying he could suspend a curtain to
divide the basket into two compartments.  Otherwise, he would
just fly by himself.

Berry flew the balloon 25 times in 1909 and took a woman with
him 5 of those times.  He flew it 4 times so far in 1910.  He
said "The old University City still takes me into the clouds
notwithstanding it leaks like a sieve."
The top three pilots from the National race were to be qualified to
race in St Louis for the International Championship in October.  

However, in July the ACA ruled that E.W. Mix of Columbus Ohio
would be one of the three American starters for the International
championship, whether he competed in Indianapolis or not.  So
only two pilots from the Indy race would move on to the International

This was because Mix had won the International Championship in
1909, which was held in Switzerland.  His victory was now why
America was hosting the event in 1910.

Mix had sailed from Zurich to north of Warsaw Poland, a distance
of 648-698 miles to win the Gordon Bennett cup.

In addition to this aeronautical event, America was also hosting the
Aviation Cup by reason of the victory of Glenn H. Curtis at Rheims.
Pre-Indy 500 Races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
June 12 the Wright exhibition company launched its six-day
campaign at Indianapolis with Brookins, Johnstone, Welch,
Hoxsey, Coffyn, LaChapelle and Orville Wright.
c1910 postcard view of automobile and pedestrian bridges over
the track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis,
Indiana. This was the second turn and the bridges crossed the
track at the entrance to the second turn. The view was looking
northwest toward the starting line and Judges’ Stand on the far
side of the track. The sign above the nearest ramp announced
ENTRANCE ONLY. The sign above the other ramp announced
EXIT ONLY. A photo showing a similar view was published in the
Indianapolis Star Newspaper in June of 1910.

The lettering on the building in the background was
AERODROME and NO ADMITTANCE. Balloon and aeroplane
races were held at the speedway beginning in 1909. The first
official event was a balloon race in 1909. In 1914, a news blurb in
a trade publication¹ announced that fire had destroyed the
Aerodrome. That report said this aerodrome was one of the
largest in the world at 280 feet long, 60 feet wide and 50 feet
high with a capacity of 20 aeroplanes and a dirigible. Several
balloons and a dirigible were lost in the fire.

From a private collection.

1. Horseless Age: The Automobile Trade Magazine, Volume 34,
Number 9 (New York, NY: Horseless Age Company, 1914), page
Note:  I did not finish this page and never posted it or the completed
page on the 1909 balloon races.  Now it's two years later and I've
decided to go ahead and let you see them as is - Dan (Feb 2019)