Vanderbilt Cup Centennial at the Miller Meet, July 6-7, 2012
2012 Miller Meet to Commemorate 1912 Historic Races
In recognition of the International Vanderbilt Cup and Grand Prize Races which were held here in Milwaukee in 1912, Vanderbilt Cup and Grand Prize race cars will be featured at the Millers at Milwaukee Meet July 6-7, 2012. Vanderbilt Cup era cars are invited to participate in the vintage Indy Car event.
The history of the famous Vanderbilt Cup races begins on Long Island in 1904 as the "brainchild" of its major sponsor, William K. Vanderbilt, Jr., who was an early automobile enthusiast and successful race driver. The Vanderbilt Cup races, under the sanction of the Automobile Association of America (AAA), the name of which was later changed to American Automobile Association, were run on rural roads and city streets in Nassau county, New York, through 1910. Meanwhile, a rival organization, the Automobile Club of America (ACA), which feuded with the AAA, became the U.S. representative of the Automobile Club de France, which sanctioned the grand Prix races. As an aside, the AAA was mainly an automobile manufacturer's association, whereas the ACA was organized by car enthusiasts, particularly racing enthusiasts.
The ACA organized the first International Grand Prix race in America and the race was awarded to Savannah, Georgia in 1908. The second American GP race in 1910 was also held in Savannah, under the auspices of the ACA. This Grand Prize series competed with the Banderbilt Cup for prestige, with some considering that the Grand Prize races soon overshadowed the Vanderbilt Cup races in importance and prestige. In 1911, the Vanderbilt Cup race moved to Savannah, where, for the first time, both the Vanderbilt Cup and the Grand Prize races were conducted as part of one race program.
For 1912, the business leaders of Milwaukee, acting through the Milwaukee Auto Dealers Association, sensing the excitement, prestige and hoped-for financial rewards, from having these internationally famous races run here, obtained the rights to hold the combined races in Milwaukee. The story of the Milwaukee races, the difficulties encountered by the organizers, including devastating rains which washed out the course and twice delayed the running of the races, is a fascinating one. Ultimately, the races, including two support races for cars of less displacement, were run on rough, basically gravel roads, in the then nearby town to Wauwatosa, on October 2-5, 1912. The race course of 7.88 miles of country roads still essentially exists in the form of current city streets, so one can still "run" the circuit, all-be-it at a more sedate pace.
To put it in perspective, this was likely the most significant international sporting event ever to take place in Milwaukee to this day. The newspapers were full of articles preceding and following the races, including the New York Times and other papers around the country and the world, written by members of the large contingent of national and international reporters covering the races. the event was so important that the day the Vanderbilt Cup rac was scheduled to run was proclaimed "Milwaukee Day," with grand civic celebrations planned, to include the Governor and other dignitaries. Spectators came from around the country, including on special charted trains. The interest in the races was so high that many businesses declared Vanderbilt Cup race day a holiday so their employees could attend the races.
The Milwaukee races drew some of the best and well-known race drivers of the day, including Ralph De Palma, Caleg Bragg, Bob Burman, Barney Oldfield, Teddy Tetzlaff, Ralph Mulford, Gil Anderson, Hughie Hughes, and others. Although most of the race cars were of European origin, both Stutz and mercer competed well in cars of much smaller displacement in comparison to Mercedes, Fiat and Benze. Most of the mammoth race cars were chain driven, in comparison to the much smaller Stutz and Mercer race cars with their drive shaft/differential configuration.
In addition to the anticipated participation of the fine cars of this era, the history of the 1912 races will be highlighted. This will include the display of two large dioramas, each 4 feet x 12 feet in size, now being constructed. One model will depict the area of the start-finish line, with its pits, grandstands, box seats and officials' stand. The second model will depict the "city turn," being the difficult the first turn hairpin. Both dioramas will reflect the race action and include fine scale models of the competing Vanderbilt Cup/Grand Prize cars, as well as model of the spectators' cars. You won't want to miss this feature of historic racing history!