The World When IMS Opened

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway officially opened with balloon races June 5, 1909, followed by motorcycle races Aug. 14 and automobile races Aug. 19. Major news events, cultural happenings and other facts and figures from 1909:

World, National Events

  • William Howard Taft succeeded Theodore Roosevelt as President of the United States in March.
  • The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is founded.
  • Robert Peary, Matthew Henson and four Eskimo explorers allegedly reach the North Pole.
  • Ernest Shackleton’s expedition claims to have found the magnetic South Pole.
  • Alice Huyler Ramsey, a 22-year-old housewife from Hackensack, N.J., becomes the first woman to drive across the United States. The 3,800-mile trip, from New York to San Francisco, takes 59 days.
  • Louis Bleriot becomes the first man to fly across the English Channel.
  • Construction begins on the RMS Titanic.

Area Events

The federal government filed a libel suit against The Indianapolis News when the newspaper questioned Theodore Roosevelt’s work on the Panama Canal deal. The News editors were indicted but refused to be tried in Washington, saying the trial should take place in Indianapolis, where the alleged libel took place. The judge ruled in favor of The News. It was a landmark ruling for freedom of the press that still stands.

Area Government

  • U.S. senators, Indiana – Albert J. Beveridge, Republican; James A. Hemenway, Republican (until March 1909); Benjamin F. Shively, Democrat (after March 1909)
  • Indiana governor – Thomas R. Marshall, Democrat
  • Indianapolis mayor – Charles A. Bookwalter, Republican

Facts, Figures

  • World population: 1.7 billion (6.8 billion in 2009)
  • U.S. population: 90 million (306 million in 2009)
  • Indianapolis population: 233,650 (795,458 in 2007)
  • Median age of U.S. population: 24.1 (36.8 in 2009)

Selected Consumer Prices

  • First-class stamp: 2 cents
  • Hershey chocolate bar: 2 cents
  • Bottle of Coca-Cola: 5 cents
  • Gallon of gas: 6 cents
  • Box of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes: 10 cents
  • New car (average): $1,280
  • New home (average): $2,650
  • $1 in 1909 had the same purchasing power as $24.41 in 2008

Sports Champions

  • World Series: Pittsburgh Pirates
  • Stanley Cup: Ottawa Hockey Club (Senators)
  • Kentucky Derby: Wintergreen
  • NCAA football: Yale
  • Heavyweight boxing world champion: Jack Johnson, United States
  • AAA auto racing national champion: George Robertson

Nobel Prize Winners

  • Physics – Ferdinand Braun, Guglielmo Marconi
  • Chemistry – Wilhelm Ostwald
  • Medicine – Emil Theodor Kocher
  • Literature – Selma Lagerlof
  • Peace – Auguste Marie Francois Beernaert, Paul-Henri-Benjamin d’Estournelles de Constant