Research Center Drag Racing Photographs Collection

Biographical / Historical Note

The National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) was founded in 1951 by Wally Parks, whose aim it was to take drag racing from the streets and into a safer environment. Staging its first official race in 1953, the NHRA later held its first national competition,...

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The National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) was founded in 1951 by Wally Parks, whose aim it was to take drag racing from the streets and into a safer environment. Staging its first official race in 1953, the NHRA later held its first national competition, known as "the Nationals," in 1955 in Great Bend, Kansas. Over 50 years later, the NHRA has over 35,000 licensed competitors and 140 member tracks around the country.

Hot Rod Magazine was founded in 1948 by Robert E. Petersen, who was integral in establishing the first hot rod show held at the Los Angeles Armory that year. Later, Petersen created dozens of other magazines related to the automotive world. Eric Rickman, one of the photographers Petersen hired for the magazine, documented many of the inaugural events in drag racing, including the 1955 NHRA Nationals and the first Bonneville Speed Week in 1949.

Note content adapted from the following sources:
- “NHRA history: Drag racing’s fast start.” Online article accessed on 25 May 2015 at http://www.nhra.com/nhra101/history.aspx
- “Robert E. Petersen, Founder of Hot Rod, Passes On at 80.” Online article accessed on 25 May 2015 at http://www.hotrod.com/news/hrdp-petersen-passing/
- “Remembering Eric Rickman.” Online article accessed on 25 May 2015 at http://www.hotrod.com/features/history/stories/hrdp-0807-eric-rickman/

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Scope and Content Note

The Research Center Drag Racing Photographs Collection contains 10 black-and-white 8x10 inch photographic prints reprinted from the original negatives, circa 1985. The original photographs were taken by Eric Rickman and Bob D’Olivo for Petersen Publishing...

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The Research Center Drag Racing Photographs Collection contains 10 black-and-white 8x10 inch photographic prints reprinted from the original negatives, circa 1985. The original photographs were taken by Eric Rickman and Bob D’Olivo for Petersen Publishing Company’s Hot Rod Magazine. The prints are organized chronologically by year, and then in alphabetical order by subject.

The collection also contains a small amount of background information on the photographs assembled by Bob Casey, former Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford, and Zach Waske an intern at The Henry Ford in 2006 and 2007.

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Collection Details

Object ID: 2006.54.0
Creator: Rickman, Eric 
Inclusive Dates: 1955-1963
Size: 0.2 cubic ft. (1 box)
Language: English

Collection Access & Use

Item Location: Benson Ford Research Center

Access Restrictions: The collection is open for research.

Credit: From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Digitized Artifacts From This Collection

In many cases, not all artifacts have been digitized.
Contact us for more information about this collection.

A "Bean Bandit" Dragster at the NHRA Nationals, Great Bend, Kansas, 1955

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A "Bean Bandit" Dragster at the NHRA Nationals, Great Bend, Kansas, 1955

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A "Bean Bandit" Dragster at the NHRA Nationals, Great Bend, Kansas, 1955

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Art Arfons and Pit Crew with the Trophy for Top Speed, NHRA Nationals, Detroit Dragway, 1959

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Art Arfons and Pit Crew with the Trophy for Top Speed, NHRA Nationals, Detroit Dragway, 1959

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Art Arfons and Pit Crew with the Trophy for Top Speed, NHRA Nationals, Detroit Dragway, 1959

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Art Arfons and Wally Parks with the Trophy for Top Speed, NHRA Nationals, Detroit Dragway, 1959

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Art Arfons and Wally Parks with the Trophy for Top Speed, NHRA Nationals, Detroit Dragway, 1959

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Art Arfons and Wally Parks with the Trophy for Top Speed, NHRA Nationals, Detroit Dragway, 1959

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Cal Rice and Mickey Thompson at the Start of Their Heat, NHRA Nationals, Great Bend, Kansas, 1955

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Cal Rice and Mickey Thompson at the Start of Their Heat, NHRA Nationals, Great Bend, Kansas, 1955

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Cal Rice and Mickey Thompson at the Start of Their Heat, NHRA Nationals, Great Bend, Kansas, 1955

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Calvin Rice at the NHRA Nationals, Kansas City, Missouri, 1956

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Calvin Rice at the NHRA Nationals, Kansas City, Missouri, 1956

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Calvin Rice at the NHRA Nationals, Kansas City, Missouri, 1956

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Car at the Starting Line of the NHRA Nationals, Great Bend, Kansas, 1955

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Car at the Starting Line of the NHRA Nationals, Great Bend, Kansas, 1955

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Car at the Starting Line of the NHRA Nationals, Great Bend, Kansas, 1955

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Connie Kalitta at the NHRA Nationals, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1963

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Connie Kalitta at the NHRA Nationals, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1963

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Connie Kalitta at the NHRA Nationals, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1963

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Official Start of First NHRA Drag Racing Meet, Great Bend, Kansas, 1955

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Official Start of First NHRA Drag Racing Meet, Great Bend, Kansas, 1955

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Artifact

Photographic print

Date Made

circa 1985

Summary

This is a scene from the National Hot Rod Association's first national championship drag racing meet in 1955 on the concrete runway of the Great Bend, Kansas Municipal Airport. The official starter leaps high while waving the checkered flag to signal the start of the race. The car to his right is driven by Calvin Rice. To the left, out of the picture, is Rice's opponent. Drag races are run like tournaments: cars at a time face off; the winner advances to the next round, the loser is eliminated. Rice won all his races at this meet to take home the championship trophy and the title of Top Eliminator. In another decade the leaping starter would be replaced by a safer but less spectacular system of electric lights.

Object ID

2006.54.1

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Official Start of First NHRA Drag Racing Meet, Great Bend, Kansas, 1955

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

What is The Henry Ford?

The national attraction for discovering your ingenuity while exploring America’s spirit of innovation. There is always much to see and do at The Henry Ford.

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  Details

Sign for the SRCA Drag Strip, Great Bend, Kansas, 1955

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Sign for the SRCA Drag Strip, Great Bend, Kansas, 1955

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What is The Henry Ford?

The national attraction for discovering your ingenuity while exploring America’s spirit of innovation. There is always much to see and do at The Henry Ford.

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  Details