Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Steampunk Technologist - Mr. Carl Fisher, Automotive Innovator


Mr. Carl Fisher, and his bare bones racing vehicle, at the Harlem Racetrack, near Chicago, Il

One of the aspects of I personally enjoy about the Steampunk aesthetic is its optimistic view of technology and science.  While many of the legendary scientists of the genre are well known (e.g. Tesla, Babbage, Curie, Pasteur, Carver, or I suppose the deceitful Edison), there are plenty of lesser known trailblazers during the Steampunk era who may have been overlooked.  One said individual is Mr. Carl Fisher, an tireless yet overlooked innovator with an aspect which modern individuals take for granted now - the automobile!


A 1911 photo of Mr. Fisher driving his personalized auto 
(see the initials on the grill), at the Speedway!

Mr. Fisher rose to prominence near what might have been called the "Late Steampunk Era", from 1900 to 1913 (yes, part of the Edwardian period, for those who insist)!  His innovations include developing headlights for autos (so one can drive in the dark!), taking advantage of technological development and market growth to become a spare parts supplier for autos, and was instrumental for developing roadways for commercial and public transportation (e.g the Lincoln Highway, the Dixie Highway), but his crowning achievement is likely the development of the Indianapolis Speedway, home of the Indianapolis 500!


The starting lineup for the inaugural Indianapolis 500,
with Mr. Fisher, the Speedway president in the large white touring cart (far right?)

I must admit I'm not a follower of automotive competition, but the stories behind the development and growth of the Speedway are a fantastic overview of the emergence and acceptance of technology (though a bit bloody, as one can learn).  Vice trying to recount the stories behind the rise and ultimate fall of this innovator, please do consider a visit to a few associated websites for more regarding Mr. Carl Fisher, an unsung Steampunk Technologist, at...

His Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_G._Fisher

An excellent Popular Mechanics piece on Mr. Fisher: http://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/news/vintage-speed/the-forgotten-man-who-built-the-indianapolis-motor-speedway

The scandal that almost destroyed Mr. Fisher and the Indianapolis Speedway:
http://www.caranddriver.com/features/03q2/before_there_was_a_500-sport/tragedy_at_the_track_page_3

The American Motorsport Journal piece on Mr. Fisher and his accomplishments:
http://www.na-motorsports.com/Journal/1997/2/RussellJ.html

Automobile Magazine: Indianapolis Motor Speedway - The Birthplace of Speed
http://www.automobilemag.com/features/racing/0906_indianapolis_motor_speedway_birthplace_of_speed/index.html

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