1914 Indy 500

I finished up my studying today a bit late, and started in on the album at 6:00 p.m.  It's winding up to be about three to four hours work to finish a post!  I noticed this evening that I've stopped sneezing, too.  I guess that having the scrapbooks out in the fresh air has done them some good.

As I started digitizing what I felt were interesting photographs, I began to realize that this race may take more than one or two posts.  There are just some great photos here, and a lot of interesting stories to go with them!  So let's start off with a little fanfare.

Hopefully, we all have the theme from Rocky and Bullwinkle playing in our heads.

I thought this was a fun photo, since I had mentioned the marching band in a previous post, and it appealed to the little kid in me.  I've always loved listening to a brass band at a parade, and I can imagine Ivan running out there to snap a photo with his camera, although he was actually more like 20.  I don't have a clue what he used, but I do have a couple of his cameras as part of the collection.  It was actually a bit of an ordeal, not like snapping a digital photo with your cell by a long shot.  So this shot would have had quite a bit of planning before releasing the shutter.  Unfortunately, they all stopped playing just as they got to his position.

Ivan wasn't really careful about the order he put photos in, so I'm not going to try and guess the series of events, but the upcoming photo of the drivers did come after the band.  I thought it built a good sense of tension in the scrapbook, so I included it here.

Now it starts to get more interesting.  The cars are on the track and we get to walk down and see them in their starting order, sort of.  For whatever reason, there are only 4 photos of the grid.  It's possible that the photos just didn't come out, but we start with starting position 4, 5, and 6.

Mulford-23, Carlson-25, Chandler-38

Positions 9-12.  Bragg-21, Duray-14, Guyot-10, and Knipper-31
I promised in my goofy pre-post to this race that we'd see a famous WWI aviator in this round of photos, and here's our ace.  Eddie Rickenbacker, (from Stephen Sherman's great site) who changed his name from Reichenbacher, so Americans wouldn't confuse him with one of the German aces.  My son and I have read his autobiography a number of times and loved it.  This was one fascinating man, and I really love the parallels, however few, between him and Ivan. I promise to post a couple of great photos of Rickenbacker at the 1915 race.

Positions 22-26.  Burman-17, Rickenbacker-42, Disbrow-1, Wishart-19, Grant-27

Positions 13-17.  Mason-13, Cooper-2, Thomas-16, Anderson-24 and Dawson-26
For this post, I'll leave with this final photo of the pace car and the start of the 1914 Indianapolis 500.  Notice the driver and the observer looking back over their shoulder's to get a good look at the start.

I had a major shift in my understanding of the time frame of Ivan's life tonight.  I had been working on the incorrect belief that he was much younger when he started flying.  I thought he was around 19, when it turns out he was more like 22.  This actually answers some perplexing questions I had regarding his military service.  I only mention this to point out that it's fun going through this material, and being able to reconstruct facts about a person's life that were misunderstood previously.  I'm excited to dig into the collection more as a result.

There are a number of outstanding photos in the next batch coming up.  I have a couple of wrecks, breakdowns, and more track-side photos of racers and cars.  I also wanted to mention that I'm not doing any photo retouching at all, so far.  There may be some that I need to mess with the exposure, just so they're view-able, and I have done a number of photos that I have reprinted with really good results that I hope to frame, soon.



Scope of the project

Today, I did a complete redesign of the layout.  It works really well on Chrome, and Firefox is okay, but cuts off a bit of the base, so I'm rethinking it further.  Suppose I better try IE, too.  I know one of you uses Safari, maybe you could tell me what you think.  I really disliked the way the big photo behind the text and transparent background worked.  So unorganized.  I'm not trying to annoy people, but if I'm going to be doing this for a while, I want it to look good.

I decided to show a bit of the scope of the project, and let you have a "behind the scenes" view of what I'm working with.  Mostly I'm working out of four scrapbooks which contain the flying with some racing.  One of the scrapbooks is all cars.  One of the scrapbooks is all family.  The 3-ring binder that you see open contains all the letters (yes, they're archival separators), and I've posted a photo of the logbook, which it looks like he re-transcribed at some later date.  Also, you can see his journal from 1920, and his Aero Club and Naval Aviator's certificates.  The tiny black book contains candy recipes.  We'll talk about that in a year or so.

A portion of the collection.

Jn's, Thomas Morse Scouts, Nieuports, even a Spad!  Man what a life.

Up at the crack of ... wait, 8:00 a.m.?  Seriously??
The upcoming blog will start with the 1914 Indianapolis 500.  You might have fun doing a little research before I post, which will be possibly tomorrow, but soon.  We'll see a famous flyer in the coming weeks.  How's that for a tease?  Probably pretty silly for anyone who knows WWI flying, sorry.



1913 Continued...

I learned something interesting today.  I'm allergic to my grandfather's scrapbooks!  Last night while I was scanning, I had a couple of little sneeze attacks, but today, I'm pretty well overcome by sneezing every time I handle any of this material.  Is it a dust allergy?  I don't know but I'm going to be buying more Claritin if this keeps up.  Or wearing a dust mask.

So, more of 1913 before we move on to 1914.  I didn't have as much time to go digging today, but at least we'll have some interesting photographs.  I'm also still fussing around with the layout of the blog.  I'm sorry if this is annoying, I just want to get to a format that is easy to read and a bit more interesting.  I figured a photo instead of a scrapbook cover would be a better hook for someone visiting the blog for the first time.  Let me know what you think.  I'd like to see more color, but I'm still fussing.

The more I studied the scrapbook today, the less I think the photos I posted previously were from qualifying.  In the other two years (1914, 15 coming up) I'm pretty sure I have photos of the starting grid, the drivers all lined up on the start/finish line, bands playing, etc.  Not so with 1913, for some reason, so I'm assuming these are live racing photos.

An acquaintance of mine (actually I'm going to call him a friend) wrote me a very encouraging email about the blog today.  I call him a friend because he's been extraordinarily kind and open about a project that he has going on, and he's actually the reason I started the blog.  His name is Brian Karli and he's building a Curtiss Jenny just like my grandfather flew.  Some of you may be following this since we worked together at Cessna.  I think you'd really enjoy a visit to his blog here.

Well, he asked me to post every photo and every journal entry!  It would take me (he'll laugh at me, since he's been at his project for six years) years to complete this project if I include everything.  As it is, I expect this will actually take me at least a couple of years, but I don't plan on making this a career.  Some of the photos are just not interesting enough to post, quite honestly.  Some of them are of family members or friends, and I have no clue who they are.  Do you really want to see grandma Cora's begonias?  Seriously, I have some.

Okay, enough blabbing, here are some more of Indy 500 from 1913.  Many of the race photos themselves are of tiny, indistinguishable cars off in the distance.  These had some photographic merit, I thought.

The race is on!

If these fellas seem a little close, it's because they're
brothers - Bill and Harry Endicott. Joe Nikrent behind them.

Mystery driver. Help me out if you can.
This is going to have to do for tonight.  1) I can't stop sneezing, and 2) I spent nearly an hour trying to discover the identity of mystery driver!  I'm usually pretty lucky with a jersey, a guy standing next to a car, or a photo that I can ID from the list of entrants.  I just struck out on this guy.

I need to mention one last thing about the photo with the star over driver's head.  My grandfather followed up in his scrapbooks throughout the years, and would put a star above anyone in his photos who had died.  Sadly, you'll see this a LOT when we get to the photos of flying.  That was really deadly.



1913 Indy 500

I'm picking up the story in 1913, which is where there are a load of pictures of the Indianapolis 500.  I have another scrapbook full of family photos with cars, the Chalmers factory, a tire company, and more... cars.  I think I'll spare you all the tedium of looking at pages and pages of old... cars.  I'm trying to get to the airplanes as quickly as I can, but the racing photos occupy a large chunk of these scrapbooks.  There are also a few motorcycle racing photos just prior to these.  I'm open to requests if you'd like to see them.

I have no way of knowing whether Van and Ivan had crew passes, press passes or none of the above, but there are some fabulous photos taken on the track, and in the pits.  Perhaps someone will know the race particulars better and fill us in. 

I began thinking of how far it is from Amsterdam, New York to the speedway.  I'm from California, originally, so what do I know?  Turns out that today you can make the drive in about 13-14 hours by interstate.  In 1913 you would have probably taken the train, and the New York Central Railway (seriously, look at this link) would probably have been the choice.  I won't speculate on the time, but I can imagine... oh wait, I'm speculating.  It took a while, longer than it takes today by a wide margin, what with changing cars and such.  The scrapbooks suggest that the whole family took the trip, which would have included Cora and Corinne.  I guess the train ride was boring to them, since there are no photos of the actual trip.  Anyway, pack up our trunks with cameras and film and off we go.

Pre-race pits of Louis Disbrow.  High tech jack there, fellas.
Jules Goux won the race in this Peugeot. He hasn't started drinking, yet.
Pre-race. Jack Tower's Mason, Harry Endicott's Nyberg.

One of my favorites.  Louis Disbrow, perhaps qualifying? (stands are empty)

I think these photos are from qualifying, since you can see the #15 Peugeot behind Joules Goux's car in the pits. This car did not race, and I have a photo of it with the side of the hood blown open, about the size of a runaway piston or something.

I changed my cropping with this last photo, and I'll likely stay with this from now on.  the first three photo's show that the prints were hand cut, which I thought was cool at first, but now I just think its distracting.  Also, in the last photo, I'm wondering if Van or Ivan was standing on the track, or did they find a hole in the fence to shove the camera through for the shot?  Finally, it's just a fabulous composition, probably the result of releasing the shutter right when the car was in the center of the photo!  Heh.

That's enough for tonight... a few more 1913 coming very soon.  I've decided I'm not going to rush forward to the airplanes (my apologies to Brian Karli, who was the inspiration for this blog, btw).  There are just too many good photos to pass over in order to get there.



My grandfather, Ivan P. Wheaton, was a WWI aviator, race car driver, photographer, and contributed to many books covering the early years of Marine Corps and civilian aviation. Ivan was born in 1896 in Schenectady, New York - the son of a portrait photographer, Van B. Wheaton.

Van and Ivan shared a love for automobiles, and Ivan began racing at a pretty early age, perhaps around sixteen.  He did well in local races and began to think about racing at Indianapolis. Family history has it that Van didn't like the sound of that, due to the danger in the early years of the race.  The story goes that Van offered Ivan flying lessons, rather than going on to race at Indy.  I wonder if that sounded anywhere near as ironic then as it does now.

In any case, Ivan started flying lessons in Florida.  Being the son of a photographer, Ivan captured his career in flying, and began a series of scrapbooks which document - in photos, newspaper clippings, letters, journals, medals and memorabilia - his life as a race car driver and flyer, between about 1913 to 1920.

For the longest time, I've wondered what I should do with this collection, which is, frankly unbelievable, and unique.  My wife has wanted me to do a coffee table book, but I'm fairly sure that about a hundred aviation nuts would be interested in it as a book.  I do feel like I should keep a digital record of them for my extended family, since Ivan's history is pretty special.  I've asked friends and acquaintances involved in flying for opinions, and I think I've settled, at least in part, on blogging the life of my grandfather through his amazing scrapbooks.

I've always resisted the urge to blog, since I have so little that's very interesting to share about me.  However, now that I think about being able to blog on a unique collection, and the potential to get it into the hands of anyone who's interested, it's sounding like a fun project.

So, I'll work my way through as many scrapbook items as seem interesting to me, and try my best to do it chronologically.  I suppose I should mention that there are many hundreds of photos in five scrapbooks, from Ivan's racing career, (including over 300 from three Indy 500 races he attended) through his flight instruction in Curtiss flying boats and JN-4s, to his service in WWI with the First Expeditionary Force in Calais, France flying DH-4's.  There are dozens of letters home from France, some of which paint a stark picture of their time, and I'm sure contain some historical information that's never been published.  I'll also try and include certifications, commendations and logbook entries.


I've learned a lot about my grandfather through this collection, but I've never taken the time to go through it in this kind of depth before.  I'm looking forward to sharing this portion of my grandfather's life with you, and I hope you'll find it interesting.

- kpw