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Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center 450 West Ohio Street, Indianapolis, IN 46202
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Family Tradition at the Indy 500

May 24, 2019

As we gear up for the 103rd Indianapolis 500 race this weekend, what kind of traditions do you have with your family? A longstanding reference patron brought me a 1914 drinking cup passed down in his family. His family has gone to the race each year since it began in 1911! These metal cups were fastened on individual water jugs to stay hydrated on what is historically a hot day.

Metal cup with Blue Ribbon written across top and an illustration of the racetrack with cars on it that goes around the cup. It is less than 3 inches tall as shown by a ruler held up next to the cup.

Besides its functional purpose, the Blue Ribbon metal polish company cup’s design and imagery also provide some history: there’s a list of the 1911, 1912, and 1913 race winners – Ray Harroun, Joe Dawson, and Jules Goux, respectively – and a blank spot next to 1914 to write in the winner. The background image of the race depicts the original pace cars, spectator stands and structures inside the track, which have been long replaced. The 1913 pagoda, the original version of the iconic structure we see today, is visible in the background to the right of the stands.

Interested in comparing more photos of the race over time? Explore Indy 500 images in our digital collections.

One part of the Blue Ribbon metal polish souvenir cup with washing instructions and past Indianapolis 500 winners with a blank spot for the 1914 winner.

This 105-year-old cup, slightly bigger than your standard shot glass, also contains directions on how to use it. The text states that “This SOUVENIR CUP can be used for Drinking Water” but you be the judge.

Image at the top: North Infield, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, May 30, 1911, cropped from original.

Jordan Ryan is the coordinator of the Indianapolis Bicentennial Project and architectural archivist at the Indiana Historical Society. She spends her free time debating if Star Trek or Star Wars is better.

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