Needing a test facility for Indianapolis’ burgeoning automobile industry, Carl Fisher and three other investors purchased 325 acres in 1909. They built a 2.5-mile racetrack and dubbed it Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "The Brickyard" a nickname coming about later that year when 3.2 million bricks were used to pave the track is the world’s largest sports venue today, with the ability to seat about 400,000 spectators.
One hundred years after the first of more than 300 races at the speedway, it remains home of the world-famous Indianapolis 500, as well as NASCAR’s Brickyard 400, and some motorcycle and Formula One events. The 93rd Indy 500 which takes place May 24 is being billed as the first race in the track’s "Centennial Era" of 2009-2011.
To commemorate this automotive milestone, the U.S. Census Bureau has compiled a collection of facts and figures relating to our nation, Indiana and Indianapolis during the past 100 years. Here are just a few:
When the IMS was first established in 1909, there were 90 million people in the U.S. compared to 306 million today. The population of Indianapolis from the 1910 Census was 233,650 making it the nation’s 22nd largest city at that time. The July 1, 2007, estimated population of Indianapolis was 795,458, making it the nation’s 14th largest city. The 2009 Indy 500 race-day attendance at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is expected to approach 400,000. If the speedway itself were a city, its population would be among the nation’s top 50 on that day.
The price of a new car in 1909: $1,280; the price of a new car in 2009: $28,715. The price of a gallon of gas in 1909: 6 cents (regular leaded), compared to $1.93 on March 2 of this year.
There were 743 U.S. companies involved in automobile manufacturing in 1909, employing more than 85,000 people. These employees earned an average of $680 per year. In 2007, motor vehicle manufacturing employed about 223,000 and these employees earned an average of $29.23 an hour.
Number of motor vehicles produced in the United States in 2006 was 11,260,000, with 4,367,000 of them being passenger cars (39 percent). In 1909, Ford produced 17,771 vehicles (all of them Model T’s), followed by Buick at 14,606. Also in 1909, there were nearly a dozen automobile manufacturers based in Indianapolis and another 30 in the rest of Indiana.