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May 2016



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U.S. Census Bureau History: Indianapolis 500


Indy 500

Racing fans will flock to the Indianapolis suburb of Speedway, IN, on May 29, 2016,
for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Interior.

On May 29, 2016, screaming engines, screeching tires, and blistering exhaust will thrill spectators at the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. The spectacle of speed, courage, and endurance is the most prestigious event on the open-wheeled IndyCar racing calendar. It began in 1911, with Ray Harroun taking the checkered flag after averaging 74.59 mph. The First and Second World Wars interrupted the racing schedule, but when the cars returned, drivers posted ever increasing speeds. In 2013, Brazilian racer Tony Kanaan set a time and speed record, completing the 500-mile race at an average speed of 187.433 mph!

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Link to a non-federal Web site has been home to the Indy 500 since 1911. Located in the Indianapolis suburb of Speedway, IN, the town's population surges each Memorial Day weekend from 12,101 to 300,000 or more as racing enthusiasts attend time trials, practice runs, and other race-related events.

You can learn more about Indiana's automobile industry, the Indianapolis 500, and the sport of racing using data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau and other federal agencies. For example:

  • Studebaker—one of Indiana's most prolific automobile manufacturers—began in 1852 as a carriage maker founded by Clement Studebaker and his brothers in South Bend, IN. In 1909, Indiana employed more people in the wagon and carriage industry (8,867) than any other state in the nation. As automobiles replaced wagons, the number employed in Indiana's carriage industry fell to 7,306 in 1914 and to 2,216 in 1919.
  • Automobile manufacturing entrepreneur Carl Fisher and a group of investors built the Indianapolis 500 track in 1909. In that year, automobile manufacturing played an important role in Indiana's economy. The 1909 Census of Manufactures found that 67 establishments manufactured automobiles (including bodies and parts), employing 6,797 in the state. Total value of products for Indiana's automobile establishments was $23,764,000, making it the state's sixth most valuable industry. Ten years later, Indiana's 172 automobile manufacturing establishments employed 29,529 people. They produced 58,991 passenger vehicles and 3,572 trucks. Total value of automobiles and related products in 1919 was more than $179 million. In 2012, Indiana was home to 12 automobile manufacturing establishments (NAICS 336111), employing 5,204.
  • The Indianapolis Motor Speedway's surface in 1909 was typical of most of the nation's roads—loosely packed stone and dirt that rutted easily and pelted drivers with rocks and debris. Carl Fisher and his investors resurfaced the track with paving bricks, earning the speedway its "Brickyard" nickname. In 1912, Fisher and the Lincoln Highway Association dedicated the Lincoln Highway—the first coast-to-coast road linking New York City to San Francisco. The route was 3,389 miles long, with portions paved with bricks, asphalt, or concrete that encouraged states to invest in better roads. America's interstate highway system has grown tremendously in the last 100 years. Today, 246 million motor vehicles travel more than 2.9 trillion miles over the nations 47,714 miles of interstate highways.
  • The Indianapolis 500's first fatality occurred early during its inaugural race. Arthur W. Greiner lost control of his bright red "44" Simplex Amplex after losing a front tire during the 12th lap. Greiner survived after being thrown from the vehicle, but the wreck flipped over on riding mechanic Sam Dickson of Mishawaka, IN, killing him instantly.
  • In 1910, Indianapolis, IN, was the nation's 22nd largest city with a population of 233,650. In 2014, Indianapolis was the 14th largest city in the United States and largest city in Indiana, with a population of 848,788.
  • The Indy 500's first champion—Ray Harroun—retired from racing soon after the 1911 race. He worked as an automotive engineer, sponsored racing teams (employing famous driver and World War I pilot Eddie Rickenbacker), founded Harroun Motor Car Company in Wayne, MI, and designed and built military equipment during World Wars I and II. He was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame Link to a non-federal Web site in Detroit, MI, in 2000.
  • In 2009, nearly 31 million people reported that they attended at least one NASCAR or other automobile racing event. More than 4.4 million people reported attending one or more racing events each month.

Ray Harroun, winner of the 1911 Indianapolis 500

Ray Harroun driving the Nordyke & Marmon Company "Marmon Wasp"—a modified passenger car—won the inaugural Indianapolis 500
on May 30, 1911, with an average speed of nearly 75 mph. In 1911, American automobile manufacturers, like Nordyke & Marmon Company,
produced 199,319 passenger cars and 10,681 trucks.

Photo courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society.




Indianapolis, IN Skyline
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Marion County, Indiana


Indianapolis is located in Marion County, IN. It is the largest county in the state with a population of 919,336 in 2014—larger than North Dakota, South Dakota, Alaska, Vermont, Wyoming, or the District of Columbia.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2013 County Business Patterns data, the largest employers in Marion County (by number of paid employees) are in health care and social assistance (83,408), accommodation and food services (48,726), and retail trade (46,854).

Photo courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.







JFK on the telephone
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This Month in Census History


President John F. Kennedy (left) was not the only person on the phone in the 1960s. According to 1960 Census data released on May 17, 1962, approximately 79 percent of the nation's households owned a telephone.

The Survey of Income and Program Participation continues to collect telephone ownership data, finding that landline telephone ownership fell from 96.2 percent of households in 1998 to 70.5 percent in 2011. During that same period, cellular telephone ownership rose from 36.3 to 89 percent of households.

Photo courtesy of the National Security Agency.



















Did You Know?


According to March 2016 Current Employment Statistics data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, motor vehicle and parts industries accounted for 923,500 jobs in the manufacturing sector (NAICS 31–33).

Automobile dealerships and automotive parts stores accounted for nearly 4 million jobs in the retail sector (NAICS 44–45).




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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Census History Staff | Last Revised: December 14, 2020