Friday, May 11, 2012

Ralph J. Satterlee Indianapolis 500 Photograph Collection now available in Digital Media Repository

Lucy Foyt, A. J. Foyt, and Diane Hunt,
in victory lane with Borg-Warner trophy,
1961 (P.065-0980)
Ladies and gentlemen, start your research! The Ralph J. Satterlee Indianapolis 500 Photographs digital collection is now available in the Ball State University Libraries’ Digital Media Repository. This digital collection includes over 800 images documenting Indianapolis 500 pre-race and race day events from 1960-1973. These images visually portray the competition and interaction between the drivers, pit crews, car owners, and race officials during a storied decade of the Indianapolis 500. The collection also includes images documenting the many events and traditions surrounding the race including the 500 Festival parade, celebrity appearances, and the fan experience at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Harlan Fengler, Gloria Stewart, and James Stewart
with Borg-Warner Trophy, 1965 (P.065-1020)
Ralph Satterlee was the editor and photographer of Borg-Warner's Gear-o-Gram magazine from 1944-1972. In addition to documenting company and community activities, he photographed the Indianapolis 500 extensively, serving as an official Indianapolis 500 photographer from 1960-1972. This status gave Satterlee unique access to document the race from a closer vantage point than the average fan. That access proved to be perilous, however, in 1971 when the pace car carrying Astronaut John Glenn veered off the apron and into the photographers stand moments after the start of the race. The accident did not deter Satterlee in his coverage as he took a photograph of the first aid tent while being treated for a broken nose and then returned to the track to photograph the remainder of the race.

500 Festival Queen finalists sweep
starting line, 1962 (P.065-0988)
As an official Indianapolis 500 photographer, Satterlee used his camera to capture the moments on and off the track that came together to make the Indianapolis 500 the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. His photographs of the drivers, car owners, and pit crews leading up to the race portray the preparation involved, as well as candid moments of interaction between rivals. His photographs of the fans at the race capture the building anticipation leading up to the start of the engines. Satterlee documents the thrill of victory in his images of the presentation of the Borg-Warner trophy to the race winner.

Indianapolis 500 lap one, 1965 (P.065-1027a)

This digital collection is a great resource for students, researchers, and race fans studying the history and experience of the Indianapolis 500. It is also of interest for researchers examining such diverse topics as sports photography, the Borg-Warner Corporation, 1960’s celebrities, and sports culture. So take a few moments and explore this collection for your next research paper, to find pictures of your favorite driver, to try and find pictures of yourself in the crowd, or simply to prepare for that day in late May when race fans from around the world feel like they are back home again in Indiana.
For more information about Ralph J. Satterlee’s photographs and manuscripts, please see our finding aid for the Ralph J. Satterlee papers or contact our Archives and Special Collections staff at