Book Review – The 1912 Milwaukee Races: Vanderbilt Cup And Grand Prize

As one who’s been collecting books on auto racing for over thirty years I’ve been blessed to have amassed a sizeable motorsports library. One of my biggest complaints are the new books that seem to rehash the same stories and figures in auto racing. One book that falls into neither category is Joel Finn’s latest release, “The 1912 Milwaukee Races: Vanderbilt Cup and Grand Prize.”

Quite a few years ago renowned author and artist Peter Helck wrote about the 1912 Vanderbilt Cup at Milwaukee in his book “The Checkered Flag” dealing with the history of the Vanderbilt Cup races. The races are mentioned briefly in other books, but no single book had been written on the historic races at Milwaukee until now.

Anyone who has read any of Mr. Finn’s books such as Caribbean Capers or his American Road Racing series knows his attention to detail is remarkable. Thankfully, this book shares that trait. The books’ research dates back to 1972 when Finn, after a rainout at Road America went to nearby Sheboygan, WI and came across two photo / scrapbooks on the 1912 races.

The book starts with a nice background of the city of Milwaukee which in 1912 was the 12th largest city. It was nice seeing details about the city and the event I wasn’t aware of such as the places the drivers and teamed stayed and other interesting tidbits. Significant details revealed are the background of the organization and the players that would bring the event to the growing industrial city. Later, the preparations are detailed including the bad weather that wreaked havoc with the schedule and the unexpected expenses that challenged the event. The book places you back into 1912 where you see the difficult undertaking and the enormous determination placed on the shoulders of the organizers and the city of Milwaukee to pull it off. Many photos, maps and charts detail the track development and logistics.

The book also gives nice background stories of the legendary drivers such as Barney Oldfield, Ralph Mulford, Bob Burman, Caleb Bragg, Terrible Teddy Tetzlaff and Ralph DePalma. It also digs deep into the supporting cast of drivers of which most were local and remain unknown to this day but come alive with many photos unpublished until now.

The races had both triumph and tragedy as the accident that claimed the life of rising American superstar, David Bruce-Brown is revealed. The races were hard-fought and crowd pleasing from start to finish. Unfortunately, the organizers found that racing on public roads in the United States was very difficult. Not only were road conditions horrible but selling tickets to an event where the crowds can view the event in some places for free is difficult. In 1912, organizers were dealt a cruel hand due to a weather disaster that forced a two-week delay of the event increasing expenses of the event.

Many believe the Milwaukee races could’ve been a yearly success but conditions and circumstances proved otherwise.

This is a book that will be enjoyed by any fan or serious student of motorsports as well as any connoisseur of American history as all will enjoy the manuscript in the 213-page hard cover book. This book is presented in large format, to showcase the 225 color and black and white images.

213 pages, 199 images and result charts.
Hardcover, large format: 9 x 12 inches ($95.00 retail)
ISBN 978-0-9647769-6-8

Racemaker Press, Inc.
39 Church Street
Boston, MA 02116
PH: 617-723-6533

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