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Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs, 20 to 200 megabytes in size) from the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) Many were digitized by LOC contractors using a Sinar studio back. They are adjusted by your webmaster for contrast and color in Photoshop before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here.

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • THERE'S NO MEDICINE FOR REGRET, 1945

Ralph DePalma: 1918

Ralph DePalma: 1918

June 1, 1918. The Italian racecar driver Ralph DePalma and mechanic in the Packard that won the Harkness Handicap at Sheepshead Bay Speedway in Brooklyn. 5x7 glass negative, George Grantham Bain Collection. View full size.

 

Life imitating toy

Living in an age of more robust machines and concern for safety, it is hard not to look at this racing car and imagine that you are looking at a child's toy made life-size. Were sportsmen more innocent or more courageous to go nearly 100 mph in such a fragile-looking contraption? Who would do it today?

[Some of these cars went a lot faster than 100 mph. The average speed for the top finishers in this race was 103. - Dave]

Land Speed Record

DePalma was born in Italy and immigrated to the U.S. before the turn of the century. In 1912 and 1914 he was recognized as the AAA National Champion and in 1929 as the Canadian Champion. As late as 1936 he was still setting records in stock cars. His career victory total of 24 championship race wins still ranks high on the all-time list and came in a combination of road and course, dirt track, board track and oval track competition. He also competed successfully in Europe and helped design the Packard V-12, which he drove to a land speed record of 149.87 mph at Daytona Beach in 1919.

Probably not really a Hemingway quote....

but this shot reminded me of it.

"There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games.”

One of the legends

DePalma is one of the great legends of Indianapolis, right up there with Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt.

Dashing fellows

They had a different attitude toward risk in those days, letting it all hang out in an open roadster on natural-rubber tires and sitting in front of a large gas tank at speeds approaching 100 mph.

These large-format glass negatives continue to impress me, you can pick out impressive amounts of detail, everything from the spilled top-off oil on the frame, to the retaining screws for the clincher rims, to those fascinating ventilated drum brakes, is crystal clear.

Thanks Dave, now I'll be daydreaming all morning!

 
THE 100-YEAR-OLD PHOTO BLOG
Shorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photo blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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