In his essay that appeared in Harper’s Magazine in 1964, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” Richard Hofstadter offered readers what could be described as a scholarly discussion on the role of conspiracy theories in American history, which coming in the aftermath of the assassination of president John F. Kennedy in Dallas in November 1963, garnered much attention within the academy and the public. Hofstadter defined the “paranoid style” as being characterized by the following: “a distorted way of viewing the world, characterized by delusional thinking, excessive suspicion, shoddy scholarship, exaggeration of facts, and unjustified leaps of imagination.”*
Using Hofstadter’s criteria, one might suggest that most of these characteristics could be applied to Russ Catlin’s work regarding the AAA Contest Board, chairmen William Schimpf and Richard Kennerdell, and the secrecy – the conspiracy – surrounding the AAA national championship from 1909 to 1920. It appears that Catlin was quite capable of spinning an elaborate tale of secrecy and suspicion to support his contentions that the championships were legitimate, but that their existence was withheld from the public for various reasons.
Catlin’s vendetta against Richard Kennerdell is especially vicious at times, his attacks being libelous on occasion. The story that Catlin weaves regarding the conspiracy to deprive Tommy Milton of the 1920 AAA national championship could be the poster child for shoddy scholarship – along with several other characteristics of Hofstadter’s “paranoid style.”
That the Catlin version of national championship history was finally challenged by John Glenn Printz and Ken McMaken with solid, well-documented research and should have been soundly refuted, but was not, is a tale that is still with us, decades later. That it was Printz and McMaken who were rebuked and chastised is remarkable. That it is Catlin’s version of history that is being embraced by INDYCAR is shameful and a disgrace.
* “Richard Hofstadter’s Brilliant Essay Misled Us About the Paranoid Style of American Politics,” Richard Brotherton, History News Network, 21 February 2016, accessed 26 February 2016, at http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/161832.
Here is an overview of what material can be found in the Catlin-Russo Files that at part of the Racemaker Archives in Boston.
- There is nothing from the 1909 season in the material.
- Chapter 2, The Ray Harroun Year – 1910. Pages 67 to 115. Typewritten draft with a number of corrections made to the text.
- Championship 1911. A worksheet on a ledger page for the 1911 season. Apparently used by Arthur Means to develop the standings for the 1911 season.
- Chapter 3, The First Ralph Mulford Year – 1911. Pages 117 – 182. Typewritten draft with a number of corrections and changes to the text.
- Chapter 4, Oakland – Jacksonville – Indianapolis – Bakersfield – Elgin – Cincinnati – Philadelphia – Santa Monica – Savannah. A typewritten draft for the 1911 with a number of changes and corrections to the text. Pages 1 to 24.
- Chapter 4, Oakland – Jacksonville – Indianapolis – Bakersfield – Elgin – Cincinnati – Philadelphia – Santa Monica – Savannah. A typewritten text of what appears to be a corrected copy of the previous draft. Pages 1 to 25.
- Championship 1912. A worksheet on ledger paper for the 1912 season, entitled, Championship Point Standing 1912. Apparently used by Arthur Means to develop the points standings for the 1912 season.
- Several pages, a total of four, apparently from a chapter on the 1912 season: numbered, 198, 200, 235, 236.
- Several pages, apparently from a chapter on the 1912 season, listing race results. The results are apparently enumerated by the ordinal sequence in the national championship from the beginning. Events 65 through 81 are provided.
- Championship Point Standing 1913. A worksheet on ledger paper apparently used by Arthur Means to determine the point standings for the 1913 season.
- Page 90, 8 January 1913 issue of The Horseless Age. Material relates to 1912 season.
- Pages 44 and 45, 9 July 1913 issue of The Horseless Age.
- Championship 1914. A worksheet on ledger paper entitled, Championship Point Standing 1914; apparently used by Arthur Means to determine the point standings for the 1914 season.
- Page 49, 8 July 1914 issue of The Horseless Age.
- Page 474b, 13 September 1914 issue of The Horseless Age.
- Page 607, 21 October 1914 issue of The Horseless Age.
- Page 641, 28 October 1914 issue of The Horseless Age.
- Sioux City, Iowa, 300 Mile. Typewritten report on the Sioux City race.
- Corona – 1914 and Galesburg – 1914. Handwritten reports on these races.
- Need To Complete 1914. Typewritten page listing five events with references (Elgin, Kalamazoo, Galesburg, Minneapolis, and Corona) and Review of Year with references.
- 16 handwritten pages of notes for events and other information relating to the 1914 season. These are apparently notes made by Arthur Means.
- Championship 1915. A worksheet on ledger paper apparently used by Arthur Means to determine the point standings for the 1915 season.
- Page 46, 13 January 1915 issue of The Horseless Age.
- Page 593, 5 May 1915 issue of The Horseless Age.
- Pages 794 and 795, 6 May 1915 issue of The Automobile.
- Page 43, 14 July 1915 issue of The Horseless Age.
- Two pages of possible handwritten draft of article; mentions Ralph De Palma and Dario Resta. Apparently written by Russ Catlin.
- Page 29, 30 March 1916 issue of Motor Age.
- A worksheet on ledger paper apparently used by Arthur Means to determine the point standings for the 1917 season.
- Part of a column, “Exhaust Fumes,” written by Sheppard Butler, taken from 23 May 1917 issue of the Chicago Tribune.
- A worksheet on ledger paper apparently used by Arthur Means to determine the points standings for the 1918 season. Has note by Means dated 11/9/32.
- Chapter X, Of Rickenbacker and War – 1918. Apparently a typewritten draft of the chapter covering the 1918 season by Russ Catlin. The chapter does not include the results of 1918 events. It is 15 pages in length.
- Championship 1919. A worksheet on ledger paper apparently used by Arthur Means to determine the point standings for the 1919 season.
- Chapter XI, Indianapolis Makes a Champion, Howdy Wilcox – 1919. A typewritten draft of the chapter on the 1919 season. Pages numbered 1 through 15, but includes page 10A.
- A worksheet on ledger paper apparently used by Arthur Means to determine the point standings for the 1920 season. Has note attached written on personal notepad – From the desk of Russ Catlin – stating, “Haresnape’s worksheet for 1920.”
- Page 446, from Fourth Quarter 1982 (Vol. XX, No. 4) issue of Automobile Quarterly: “Controversy Continues for AAA Contest Board.”
- Pages 43-45 of January 1987 issue of IndyCar Racing, “Perspective: The 1920 Championship,” by Bob Russo.
- The 1920 Championship Debate: Chevrolet or Milton. Typewritten article by Russo for Indy Car Magazine.
- Pages From the Original Los Angeles Speedway (Beverly Hills) Race Programs for the Year 1920 owned by Ken M. McMaken. Copies of pages from programs for 28 February and 25 November events.
- Chapter XII, The Official Mystery, Milton or Chevrolet – 1920. Typewritten copy of draft of chapter on the 1920 season. Pages 1 through 15.
- The Unfortunate 1920 Championship Goof. Two copies of typewritten draft for article submitted to Speed Age magazine on the 1920 season. Includes a copy of the cover letter dated February 8, 1958, on Darlington International Raceway letterhead stationery. The article was not published.
- Chapter XIII, Tommy Milton, Champion, Competitor, Repeater – 1921. Typewritten copy of draft of chapter on the 1921 season. 16 pages.
- Chapter XIV, Jimmy Murphy Comes Into His Own – 1922. Typewritten copy of draft for chapter on the 1922 season. 16 pages.
- Chapter XV, A Veteran, Eddie Hearne, Triumphs – 1923. A typewritten copy of draft for chapter on the 1923 season. 15 pages.
- Chapter XVI, A Year of Tragedy – and Murphy, 1924! A typewritten copy of the draft for the chapter on the 1924 season. 16 pages.
- All Famous Race Drivers 1909 – 1928 Inclusive. Large printed sheet listing drivers and points placings, as developed by Arthur Means, from 1909 to 1928. A typewritten cover note by Catlin is included.
- Typewritten cover note referring to memo inserted in the record by Arthur Means in 1926, correcting “erroneous results of the 1920 season.” States worksheet is attached. Memo and worksheet missing.
- Typewritten cover note referring to telegram sent by W.C. Edenburn to Contest Board regarding 1920 point standings. Telegram not attached.
- Typewritten cover note referring to worksheet of Means and Val Haresnape. Catlin mentions that George Robertson is listed as 1909 champion rather than Bert Dingley.
- Typewritten cover note for 1911 worksheet and tissue copy of worksheet. Tissue copy or 1911 is attached.
- “Unofficial” AAA Point Standings Compiled by Russ Catlin. Typewritten sheet with listing of 1902 to 1908 champions as developed by Catlin.
- Peter the Great, King of Speed. Copy of article by C.G. Sinsabaugh appearing in January 1926 issue of American Motorist, pages 16 and 17.
- Record of Champion Drivers 1909 – 1928 inclu. Page from Enclosure to 8 February 1929 edition of Contest Board AAA Bulletin, Vol. IV, No. 6.
- 1916 Championship. Copy of folder. Points schedule with notation, “Taken from 1916 worn out folder.” Points schedule for 1916.
- The Great Milton by Russ Catlin. Typewritten draft of article on Tommy Milton. 18 pages.
- National Driving Champions. A page listing national champions. No reference as to origin. AAA champions begin with 1902.
- Page from AAA Record Book – 1950. Subject of page is Henry Banks.
- A.A.A. National Champions, 1909 – 1950 Inclusive. Page listing national champions, number as page 4.
- Champion Race Car Drivers 1951. Cover page of Contest Board publication. Page 6 has listing, “A.A.A. National Champions 1909 – 1951 Inclusive.”
- 1952 Contest Board Activity and Press Reference (Including International, National, Track Records). Cover page for Contest Board publication. Page six has listing of “A.A.A. National Champions,” the listing beginning with 1909.
- 1946 AAA Eastern Big Car Races. Two page listing of 1946 Big Car events.
- 1946 AAA National Drivers Point Standings, As of November 29 1946. Listing of 1946 points standings with provisions for changes in points as a result of decision of Contest Board during 13-14 meeting regarding the 2 September Atlanta race.
- Final AAA National Drivers Points Standing, As of December 31, 1946. Two pages.
- CART Media Guide Correction, Driver Listing. John G. Printz and Ken M. McMaken, dated 11/10/92, pages 1 – 7.
- CART Media Guide Correction, Race Listing. John G. Printz and Ken M. McMaken, dated 11/10/92, pages 1 – 10.
- Lowell Courier. Three pages from 1909 regarding the 1909 Lowell races.
In an article in the December 2001 issue of Vintage Oval Racing magazine, the Buffalo Transportation/Pierce Arrow Museum makes the very interesting claim that its research indicated that an event using the Fort Erie horse-racing track as part of the Pan-American Exposition in September 1901 was the first auto racing event held on a circuit in North America. Held over three days, 26-28 September, the event was promoted by the Buffalo Automobile Club using a sanction from the Automobile Club of America. The event was held in the wake of the assassination of President McKinley, being postponed from its original date of 14 September, to coincide with the completion of the New York City to Buffalo endurance contest. The track was located in Fort Erie, Ontario, just across the river from Buffalo, perhaps the reason for the staff of the Buffalo museum suggesting that it was the first North American auto race held on a circuit track rather than the first in the United States.
Perhaps the staff of the Buffalo Transportation/Pierce Arrow Museum should have done a somewhat better job in the research, the question mark in the title of the article being justified as it turns out. Prior to the Fort Erie event in September 1901, there were about two dozen (probably as many as 26) race meetings held using race tracks in North America. Holding an automobile race meeting on a circuit such as the Fort Erie Race Track was, therefore, scarcely a novelty by then. Not sure how the staff managed to overlook the event held at Narragansett Park in September 1896, the first actual automobile race to incorporate several of the elements now familiar to many of those who follow automobile racing: a closed circuit and use of the mass start being the primary ones.
Here is a listing of the other events probably held in the United States/North America using track circuits prior to the Fort Erie race meeting:
- Narragansett Park, Cranston, Rhode Island – September 1896
- Narbeth, Pennsylvania – September 1899
- Galesburg, Illinois – October 1899
- Red Bank, New Jersey – May 1900
- Davenport, Iowa – July 1900
- Branford, Connecticut – July 1900
- Portsmouth, Rhode Island – September 1900
- Ingleside, California – September 1900
- Rochester, New York – September 1900
- Guttenburg, New Jersey – September 1900
- Taunton, Massachusetts – September 1900
- Washington Park, Chicago, Illinois – September 1900
- Trenton, New Jersey – September 1900
- Reading, Massachusetts – September 1900
- Frederick, Maryland – October 1900
- Attleboro, Massachusetts – October 1900
- Los Angeles, California – October 1900
- Atlanta, Georgia – April 1901
- Los Angeles, California – May 1901
- San Jose, California – May 1901
- Brookline, Massachusetts – June 1901
- Dallas, Texas – July 1901
- Long Branch, New Jersey – July 1901 (twice)
- Rogers Park, Illinois – August 1901
- Newport, Rhode Island – August 1901
- Lewiston, Maine – September 1901
Several of these were rather minor events, to be sure, but it does give one an idea that racing on circuits such as horse-racing tracks was becoming well-established prior to the race meeting in September 1901 at the Fort Erie Race Track.
Incidentally, the article was in a copy of the magazine which was selected entirely at random while conducting research during a visit to the International Motor Racing Research Center, which is located in Watkins Glen, New York.
 Bob Harrington, “The First Circuit Race in North America?”, Vintage Oval Racing, December 2001, 32.