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  • Marmon Wasp Birthplace?

    Hi fellow Nostalgians! First off, I have to presume this has been discussed around here before but my search-fu must be rusty because I couldn't find anything.

    Ok, so I live in Noblesville (about 25 miles NE of IMS) and not long ago someone told me that the Marmon Wasp was built here and even said which building it was. I'd never heard this, so naturally I was skeptical and tried to do some research. I did find out that the building in question was indeed the home of the Marmon Bros. flour mill. I also learned a fun anecdote, the Marmons offered to make the uniforms for the local high school sports teams if they named the team The Millers, and to this day they are known as the Noblesville Millers.

    Problem is, I couldn't find a lot of definitive info about where the car was built, some info says it was built here, some say it was built at the Marmon plant down in Indy. But I noticed that the only places referencing that it was built in Noblesville were Noblesville places and I could see them maybe stretching the facts a little so they can brag about their city and business. I've posted those links below, they basically copy each other and one is the local preservation society and the other is the business that is currently in that building.

    So TFers, was the first Indianapolis 500 Sweepstakes winner built in the flour mill building in Noblesville? I live a mile away, drive by the building every day on my way to work, and my cousin is getting married this summer. I'd love to be able to say it's the home of the Wasp but I also don't want to spread any false information. I think it's cool enough that the Marmon's mill was there so I'm happy to brag about that if that's where the connection ends.

    The preservation alliance gave them the rehabilitation award in 2011 (fitting year!).

    https://noblesvillepreservation.com/...on#2011-winner

    The building is now a Banquet and Conference Center, but it still looks original and is in great shape. They say "In 1899 the Marmon family bought the building and in 1911 the Marmon "Wasp" won the first Indianapolis 500 race. Our offices now sit where the Wasp was built."

    https://djconnection.com/blog/indy-vendor-highlight


    Fun side fact, during my research I discovered Preston Tucker of Tucker Motor Co. fame also lived in Noblesville for a short time. Sadly the house got demolished before the preservation alliance could save it. It's about 1-2 miles NW of the flour mill building and Tucker had a hand in continuing the production of Marmon cars in the 30's. There's a small car dealership around the corner from my house that was to be a Tucker dealership (obviously did not come to fruition). I never knew I was surrounded by so much automotive history!

    https://noblesvillepreservation.com/...on-tucker-home
    Last edited by BrandonW77; 04-23-2019, 11:55 AM. Reason: duplicate link
    If you make something idiot proof, the world will build a better idiot.

  • #2
    Interesting question!

    I found this newspaper clipping from the January 30th, 1910 edition of the Star: https://www.firstsuperspeedway.com/s...on013010_0.pdf

    Specifically, it states: "Great activity is evidenced at the Indianapolis plant, where the special racing car which is to take part in the free-for-all events is being constructed and the stock chassis machines are being prepared for the summer."

    This would seem to indicate that the Wasp was constructed at the Marmon Plant in West Indianapolis and not Noblesville.

    The Wasp was apparently the "special racing car" referenced in the article.

    This site: https://www.firstsuperspeedway.com/a...th-marmon-wasp has a ton of great material regarding the Wasp - including many more vintage newspaper clippings. I saw another that mentioned that the car was being built "At the plant of the Nordyke & Marmon Company in this city..."

    I know there are historians on this site who probably know a lot more about the subject than I do and I can't wait to hear what they have to say - but I don't think the car was constructed in Noblesville.
    Real drivers don't need fenders!

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    • #3
      I tend to lean in that direction too Joe, but I think it's possible that both stories could have truth to them as well. The flour mill here in town was also a Nordyke & Marmon Co. property and it's not uncommon for Noblesville to be lumped in with Indianapolis since Indy/Carmel/Fishers/Noblesville have all become kind of one metropolis. I could see maybe the initial ideas and planning and maybe even some models were done in the flour mill while the Marmons were working there, then once the design was finalized they took it down to the Indy plant for actual construction. Or it could just be that Noblesville historians have maybe stretched the truth a little bit and turned "The Marmons owned a very big flour mill in town" into "The Marmons owned a very big flour mill in town AND that's where they built their famous car, because Marmon." I'm in the process of scouring the articles on firstsuperspeedway but so far haven't found anything solid to confirm one way or the other.

      I have great faith that the wonderfully knowledgeable historians here can put a definitive answer to this quandary.


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      If you make something idiot proof, the world will build a better idiot.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by BrandonW77 View Post
        I tend to lean in that direction too Joe, but I think it's possible that both stories could have truth to them as well. The flour mill here in town was also a Nordyke & Marmon Co. property and it's not uncommon for Noblesville to be lumped in with Indianapolis since Indy/Carmel/Fishers/Noblesville have all become kind of one metropolis. I could see maybe the initial ideas and planning and maybe even some models were done in the flour mill while the Marmons were working there, then once the design was finalized they took it down to the Indy plant for actual construction. Or it could just be that Noblesville historians have maybe stretched the truth a little bit and turned "The Marmons owned a very big flour mill in town" into "The Marmons owned a very big flour mill in town AND that's where they built their famous car, because Marmon." I'm in the process of scouring the articles on firstsuperspeedway but so far haven't found anything solid to confirm one way or the other.

        I have great faith that the wonderfully knowledgeable historians here can put a definitive answer to this quandary.
        Indeed! There are some really sharp historians around here and I'm anxiously waiting on them to chime in.

        History does tend to get cloudy over the years. I wonder of the banquet center has any documents they could share? Maybe even old photos?
        Real drivers don't need fenders!

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Pelican Joe View Post
          I wonder of the banquet center has any documents they could share? Maybe even old photos?
          I've thought about going to ask them, but on the other hand they kinda use that as a marketing piece so I'm not sure I'd get an entirely truthful answer from them. I'll be there in June for my cousin's wedding, rest assured I'll be snooping around as much as I can.
          If you make something idiot proof, the world will build a better idiot.

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          • #6
            I found this article through the firstsuperspeedway site that briefly discusses the birth of the Marmon cars in general. It doesn't say much, but in 1902, being unsatisfied with current cars, Howard Marmon enlisted his chief engineer (possibly Harroun?) at the flour mill/machine shop to build a car that would suit his perfectionist needs. They had bought the mill building just a few years before that so it's safe to say that planning, designing, and probably even construction of the first Marmon car was likely to have happened in the back rooms of the flour mill. The article does not specifically say that, but the mill seems to have been their center of business at that time and they certainly would have had the equipment, space, and personnel there to put together their first car(s). So, technically if you really want to reach for it, you could say that the Milltop building was the birthplace of Marmon cars which in turn makes it the "spiritual birthplace" of the Wasp.

            https://www.firstsuperspeedway.com/s...monCarLife.pdf

            If you make something idiot proof, the world will build a better idiot.

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            • #7
              It's my understanding it was the West Indianapolis site.

              Go to approximately 1200 West Morris Street, or 1400 South Harding Street, and you're there. The city has memorialized the locale with some decorative traffic control boxes with the Wasp theme, if you look closely.

              It's interesting to read about the Noblesville connection. Might be something to it.
              Last edited by doitagain; 04-26-2019, 09:23 AM.
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              • #8
                Originally posted by doitagain View Post
                It's my understanding it was the West Indianapolis site.

                Go to approximately 1200 West Morris Street, or 1400 South Harding Street, and you're there. The city has memorialized the locale with some decorative traffic control boxes with the Wasp theme, if you look closely.

                It's interesting to read about the Noblesville connection. Might be something to it.

                Thanks for the info, might try to head down there sometime and have a looksee. I could see both stories/locations having some truth to them, kinda makes sense that they might have started the planning and designing at the Noblesville location before moving to the Indy plant for actual production, in which case I could consider the Noblesville claim mostly true. I'd like for that to be the case but I'm not comfortable telling anyone anything about the building right now other than it was owned by the Marmons of Indianapolis 500 fame, which I think is still super cool.

                IMS Museum Do you all have any information or documentation on where the Wasp was designed and/or built? Any truth to the Noblesville claims?
                If you make something idiot proof, the world will build a better idiot.

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                • #9
                  Here's the photos I took of the only memorial I found at the site - historically themed traffic control boxes on the street corners:

                  ECP32b.JPGECP32f.JPG
                  ECP32hlf.JPG
                  "Each day well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well therefore to this one day for it, and it alone, is life"
                  ~ Sanskrit poem attributed to Kalidasa, "Salutation to the Dawn"


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                  • #10
                    ECP32hrf.JPGECP32hb.JPG
                    "Each day well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well therefore to this one day for it, and it alone, is life"
                    ~ Sanskrit poem attributed to Kalidasa, "Salutation to the Dawn"


                    Brian's Wish

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                    • #11
                      All the Marmons in the 1911 Indianapolis 500 were "Special Racing Cars" or "Specials" so I don't think that phrase is specifically talking about the WASP. But both entries in 1911 were most likely built side by side. However I was always told that Ray took his WASP home with him and made modifications that Joe Dawson's Marmon didn't have, More Streamlining at the rear and the famous rearview mirror and the absence of a riding mechanic. The 31 and the 32 both shared the same chassis and drivetrain and the only differences were the one's Ray designed for his WASP. I wonder if it's possible that the modifications were made in Noblesville?

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                      • #12
                        Turn13, thank you for the pics. It's cool that they did that little memorial, but also a little puzzling that that's all their is.

                        Frank, interesting info, thanks for that. It seems this is a bit more of a mystery than I first thought! I really expected to this all be explained within a few hours of making the post, quite interesting that nearly a week later and we still don't have a definitive answer!
                        Last edited by BrandonW77; 04-29-2019, 07:40 AM.
                        If you make something idiot proof, the world will build a better idiot.

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                        • #13
                          I've sifted through most of relevant articles on firstsuperspeedway regarding the birth of the Wasp and the history of Nordyke, Marmon & Company, I've learned a lot of interesting things but nothing of value regarding how the car came to be. Bits and pieces but too much of a gap between them to try to piece them together, which is what I suspect the banquet hall has done to create their claim of being the birthplace of the Wasp. I'll be at IMS Friday and Saturday of next week for the GP, I may stick my head in the museum and see if there's anyone there who could shed some light on this. Or, maybe this would be a good question for the Talk of Gasoline Alley!
                          If you make something idiot proof, the world will build a better idiot.

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                          • #14
                            https://www.wthr.com/article/indiana...t-speedway-may
                            "Each day well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well therefore to this one day for it, and it alone, is life"
                            ~ Sanskrit poem attributed to Kalidasa, "Salutation to the Dawn"


                            Brian's Wish

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                            • #15
                              Ah, good thinking! I'll be sure to stick my head in there next weekend and see if I can find any information. I think they were there last year too, I seem to recall it being a bit underwhelming but maybe there's someone there with knowledge of The Wasp since there will be a Marmon display. Thanks for the idea pal!
                              If you make something idiot proof, the world will build a better idiot.

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