In celebration of the centennial anniversary of the Vanderbilt Cup and Grand Prize races that took place in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1912, Racemaker Press, co-publishers with Garnet Hill, and exclusive distributors of the book, have launched the new title at the Milwaukee Masterpiece, August 25-26th 2012, held at the Veterans Park on Milwaukee’s Lakefront.
“The Milwaukee Masterpiece is a fitting locale to launch this new book, which I’ve been working on since 1972, when I discovered a large leatherette-covered album with original photographs of the 1912 Vanderbilt Cup and Grand Prize races, while out antiquing on a rained out track day at Elkhart Lake,” author Joel Finn said. “In the century since the Milwaukee races took place, little in-depth analysis had been published about the events, and much of the information was either incomplete or based on factually suspect records,” he continued. “The 1912 Milwaukee Races, when presented in a fair and balanced manner, were not actually deserving of the poor reputation that has been rendered over the years.”
In 1912 the Vanderbilt Cup and Grand Prize races drew all the famous American driving stars to Milwaukee to compete, driving the best and fastest competition cars of the time. Ralph De Palma took the 299-mile road course Vanderbilt Cup in his 90hp Mercedes, on October 2, 1912. Caleb Bragg with his Grand Prix Fiat S74 won the 409-mile Grand Prize race on October 5, 1912. Organizers were plagued by a weather disaster that forced a two-week delay in the race, and greatly increased the expense of the events. Had it not been for bad luck, the Milwaukee races surely would have taken their place in the history of the sport as a wildly successful event, and would most certainly have been repeated. As it was, there would be no second chance for road racing in Milwaukee.
Finn examines how the year 1912 was a pivotal moment in American racing, when it was becoming evident that it would be difficult to run races on open roads much longer. Problems with crowd control, liability, the unpredictable costs of staging the events on public roads, and of course, the difficulty in capturing revenue from the attending crowds, were making it more and more difficult for organizers and host communities to run these prestigious races.
Much like international competitors vying to host the Olympic games today, Milwaukee’s civic pride was motivation enough in 1912 to host the famed Vanderbilt Cup and Grand Prize races, and organizers and city officials were determined to demonstrate that theirs was a city of stature, suitable to hosting a world-class event.
Another notable accomplishment of the Milwaukee Vanderbilt Cup and Grand Prize races was the outstanding performance of Gil Anderson driving the Stutz, featuring an engine designed and built by Milwaukee’s own Wisconsin Motor Manufacturing Company – taking third place, the highest ever accomplished up to that time by a small displacement American stock chassis car!