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History AAA Contest Board Records location

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Tucker Fan 48, Jan 3, 2011.

  1. Tucker Fan 48
    Joined: Oct 21, 2010
    Posts: 650

    Tucker Fan 48
    from Maui

    Does anyone know the location of the AAA Contest Board Records? The AAA Contest Board was the Motorsports Division of the American Automobile Association. It sanctioned races from 1904 to 1955 when the board was dissolved. Up until that time all races at Indianapolis and at several other venues were sanctioned by AAA. The AAA Contest Board also sanctioned tests at the Bonneville Salt Flats.

    I checked with AAA and was told they spoke with the staff that oversees their archives and they do not have any records for the AAA Contest Board. They also went on to say they cannot assist me in locating them.

    Records from this period are still posted from time to time so I'm guessing they still exist. Maybe someone knows where they are located and how to access them.

    I'm looking for detailed records of who drove what cars and when along with time trials at Bonneville as opposed to who the Champion was for a particular year.
  2. Michael Ferner
    Joined: Nov 12, 2009
    Posts: 783

    Michael Ferner

  3. john glenn printz
    Joined: Apr 1, 2010
    Posts: 4

    john glenn printz

    The AAA Contest Board records from 1931 on, such as survived, were given to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway by the AAA. What remains of them are still owned by the Speedway. That is why the AAA itself has no past racing records or files relating to 1902 to 1955 currently.

    As to the pre-1931 AAA Contest Board records, it was long believed that Russ Catlin and Norris Friel had rescued them in 1950, after the AAA was going to dispose of them. So Russ led everyone to believe. James Robert "Bob" Laycock (d. 1996), the man in charge of the Press Room at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, informed me c. 1980 that Catlin had promised the Speedway that in his will, all the saved pre-1931 AAA material would be given to the Speedway after his death. Thus all the AAA records, i.e. the pre-1931 and the post-1931 would be brought back together or reunited again.

    It was assumed for years (c. 1954-1980) that Catlin's HISTORY OF AAA NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACING 1909 TO 1917 (SPEED AGE, December 1954 to August 1955) was based on the official AAA documentation, which Russ saved in 1950.

    The Speedway, after Russ' death in late 1983, received nothing and were never contacted about the matter. This information I also got from Mr. Laycock during 1984 and 1985.

    After Catlin's death, Bob Russo told me that he now had, and owned, all the Catlin material. This was in late 1984, when Bob was the publicity director for the Riverside International Speedway. After Russo's death in September 1999 the said material (whatever it was) passed to his daughter. She in turn sold it all to the RACEMAKER PRESS about two years ago.

    An auto racing fan club in the early 1980s got permission from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to copy on microfilm reels, all the post-1931 to 1955 Contest Board materials given to the Speedway. These reels are still available and for sale by Gordon E. White. However some of the copying was poorly done and is unreadable. The AAA did not give their remaining racing 1931-1955 material to the Speedway immediately in 1955 or 1956, when they got totally out of racing, but turned their records over to the Speedway in 1967. A lot of stuff is missing.

    It is still not clear whether Catlin ever saved the pre-1931 AAA material as he claimed and/or if so, whether any of it survives in bulk. My best guess is that most of it is long gone. If it still survives somehow, nobody seemingly knows where it is located, and no one has ever actually seen it, so far as I'm aware.

    The apparent conclusion is that the history of AAA racing 1902 to mid-1931 has to be written and reconstructed without any use of the official AAA Contest Board documentation. I myself reached this unhappy result in the early 1980s. I tried to find the pre-1931 AAA official reports, box scores, and bulletins, during the decade 1975-1985, but without any success.

    That is all I currently know. Can anyone add to, correct, supplement, or update this?
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2012
  4. john glenn printz
    Joined: Apr 1, 2010
    Posts: 4

    john glenn printz

    New information and recent developments in the last two weeks seem to imply conclusively that the large majority and bulk of the pre-1931 AAA Contest Board files and documents no longer exist. A few stray pieces of it may survive by pure accident, here and there, but most of it is gone.

    The long told story of Russ Catlin's saving of them in 1950 now appears not to be true.

  5. The37Kid
    Joined: Apr 30, 2004
    Posts: 27,884


    John, Welcome to the HAMB, thank you for the history lesson. Is someone collecting the bits and pieces of Pre 1931 AAA racing info? I've got some info related to a MILLER running the 1925 season, if it may be of interest to someone. Bob
  6. rh4414
    Joined: Jul 16, 2012
    Posts: 3

    from texas

    Reading the post on this subject and asking this question might be a moot point but here goes anyway.
    How could I get information on the rules governing the car build of a 1915 Indy racer if all of the records were gone, any help would be appreciated. I'm trying to piece together an old racer if possible.
    Ron Haffner
  7. Don Capps
    Joined: Feb 13, 2010
    Posts: 111

    Don Capps

    Contrary to popular opinion, records of the A.A.A. Contest Board prior to 1931 certainly DO exist. On the microfilm that Gordon White managed to have made there are quite a few pre-1931 files, far more than people seem to think. There are materials on the microfilm that go almost all the way back to the beginning of the Contest Contest. Unfortunately, some of the reproduction of the files was poor to utterly abysmal, a problem that is often compounded by multiple copies of some of the files. However, despite the various issues with the material that was copied onto the microfilm, the Gordon White material is, by far, the best archival source of the A.A.A. Contest Board files that is available to researchers, barring the IMS ever deciding to make copies of the files available.

    The fate of the A.A.A. Contest Board files while they were still at the A.A.A. headquarters seems quite simple. After discussion with Gordon White a few years ago, what happened seems to be that many of the files were simply "borrowed" by various people and never returned to the A.A.A. library where they were stored. Apparently, no one seemed to care or was all that concerned with what happened to the files after the Contest Board finally closed shop somewhere in the 1956/57 time frame. They simply walked off.

    As for Russ Catlin, what he "rescued" seems to be quite a bit less than anyone ever realized. After his death, what Catlin had was passed on to Bob Russo, these files then being purchased by Joe Freeman when Russo's daughter offered the files for sale after Russo's death. As one can see, they all fit inside a single banker's box. It seems that either that there are files missing or Catlin did not have them in the first place, although one seems as likely as the other in some respects. Attached are two images of the worksheet that Arthur Means used for the 2013 season. Lastly, here is Catlin's listing of the 1902-1908 "A.A.A. National Champions" that first appeared in the program for the 1952 International 500 Mile Sweepstakes race.

    Catlin-Russo Collection Freeman 2013 01ab1.jpg

    Catlin-Russo Collection Freeman 2013 02ab.jpg

    Catlin-Russo Collection Freeman 2013 03ab.jpg

    Catlin-Russo Collection Freeman 2013 04a.jpg

    Catlin-Russo Collection Freeman 2013 05ab.jpg

    I have copies of whatever was in the files, which was far less than one hoped, of course, but which certainly puts paid to any nonsense that Russ Catlin "rescued" the pre-1931 A.A.A. Contest Board records. Unfortunately, there are years missing for the Means worksheets as well as for the drafts of Catlin's articles for Speed Age, which are interesting in and of themselves. In addition, there is an article on the 1920 season which was submitted to Speed Age in 1958, but not accepted for some reason.

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